History of The Santa Clara Merc

Guys. I have so much info to tell you I feel like I’m jumping from subject to subject. I know yesterday I said that today’s post was going to lay out all of the hurdles that we had to deal with buying The Merc but when I got thinking about it, I realized that what I really need to share today is a semi brief history of the Santa Clara Merc so that if you aren’t from Southern Utah, you can catch the spirit of The Merc and how important it is to save this building.

The Merc (short for Mercantile) is one of the most historically significant buildings in Santa Clara. When the Mormon pioneers settled Santa Clara a few members started a co-op in a small room in one of their houses. The business grew and in 1928 a modern store was built by Adolph Hafen.

After some time (I’m not sure how much, I can’t seem to find a record of it!) an adobe brick garage was added onto the store. Gas pumps were added in front and it was the center of bustling Santa Clara. This was long before I-15 went through St. George and the only way to get to Vegas/California etc. was to drive through Santa Clara. The Merc was the last stop to get gas and supplies.

There was a service station in the garage (the brick side) of the building for a few years. It was then used as a warehouse for a produce company.

In 1945 The Merc was sold to Adolph’s son Horace and his wife Ethel. They took out the gas pumps and added onto the east side of the building to create a larger grocery department. In 1956 the Santa Clara Post Office was put into the garage side of The Merc (it stayed there for about 10 years) In the picture below you can see where the addition was made to the east side of the building.

Horace and Ethel’s son Doug ran the store after his father’s death and his mother’s retirement at the age of 72 in 1985.

It was sold to a man named Tom in 1986, it had been in the Hafen family for 124 years. Tom worked really hard at making it a success but there just grew to be too much competition from larger grocery stores and he closed The Merc in 2000. I’m assuming this is when the grocery store with all of its penny candy glory ended.

The details of what happened to The Merc from 2000-2016 isn’t heavily recorded. From what I can tell its been a lot of random things, none of which were very successful. It was sold to Ernie (the fantastic man that I bought it from) a year ago. He had plans to turn it into a art gallery and black box theater for his non-profit The Difiore Center.

Ernie did some heavy demolition. If you noticed in the pictures that I’ve shared there are tons of wires hanging from the trusses. That’s because all of the amazing character was covered up with drop ceilings and sheetrock. Ernie and all of his hard work uncovered the magic that is The Merc.

Here are some same angle before and afters of the demo:

In September 2016 he decided not to move forward with renovations and listed it with Meghan, and that’s where I came into the picture!

I know that so many of you from Santa Clara have memories and probably more details to add to this super brief overview, I would LOVE to have you add them in the comments below and I will update the post! Specifically do you know when the windows in the garage were closed off?

I am loving all of the questions that you guys have been asking, I’m working on tomorrow’s post to answer them!!

Thanks for being so excited about this journey, its going to be a good one!

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Author: Jeff Donaldsons

Good day everyone, I'm a family man who loves hanging out with friends & meeting new people. Family Friends and Coding Yeah!. I also love helping others.