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2014 Dining Awards Winners

 


Read more about our award winners in the March/April issue of Salt Lake magazine. Print this out and keep it in your wallet for future reference the old school way, or visit our online dining guide.

Click here to see the 2014 Dining Awards Readers’ Choice winners.

Click here to see the full article on 2014 Dining Awards winners running in our March/April 2014 issue.

2014 Dining Awards Winners

Best Restaurant: Salt Lake City
Pago
878 S. 900 East, SLC, 801-532-0777
Red Carpet Interview

Best Restaurant: Park City
J&G Grill
2300 Deer Valley Dr. East, Park City, 435-940-5760
Red Carpet Interview

Best Restaurant: Ogden/Northern Utah
Hearth on 25th
195 Historic 25th Street, 2nd Floor (#6), Ogden, 801-399-0088
Red Carpet Interview

Best Restaurant: Provo/Central Utah
Black Sheep
19 N. University Ave., Provo, 801-607-2485
Red Carpet Interview

Best Discovery
Del Mar al Lago
310 Bugatti Dr., SLC, 801-467-2890
Red Carpet Interview

Best Wine List
BTG
63 W. 100 South, SLC, 801-359-2814
Red Carpet Interview

Community Service Award
Steven Rosenberg, Liberty Heights Fresh
1290 S. 1100 East, SLC, 801-583-7374
Red Carpet Interview

Best New Restaurant/Best Mexican Restaurant
Alamexo
268 S. State Street, SLC, 801-779-4747
Red Carpet Interview

Best Chinese
J. Wong’s Asian Bistro
163 W. 200 South, SLC, 801-350-0888

Best Mediterranean
Layla
4751 S. Holladay Blvd., SLC, 801-272-9111
Red Carpet Interview

Best Italian
Fresco Italian Cafe
1513 S. 1500 East, SLC, 801-486-1300
Red Carpet Interview

Best Indian
Saffron Valley East India Cafe
26 E. Street, SLC, 801-203-3325
Red Carpet Interview

Best Comfort Food
Silver Star Cafe
1825 Three Kings Dr., Park City, 435-655-3456
Red Carpet Interview

Best Breakfast
Caffe Niche
779 E. 300 South, SLC, 801-433-3380
Red Carpet Interview

Best Japanese
Naked Fish Japanese Bistro
67 W. 100 South, SLC, 801-595-8888
Red Carpet Interview

Best Lunch
Feldman’s Deli
2005 E. 2700 South, SLC, 801-906-0369
Red Carpet Interview

Best Bakery
Eva’s Bakery
155 S. Main St., SLC, 801-355-3942

Best Neighborhood
Avenues Bistro on Third
564 E. Third Avenue, SLC, 801-831-5409
Red Carpet Interview

Hall of Fame

Cucina Toscana (2008)
307 W. Pierpont Ave., SLC, 801-328-3463

Mazza (2008)
1515 S. 1500 East, SLC, 801-484-9259
912 E. 900 South, SLC, 801-521-4572
Red Carpet Interview

Red Iguana (2008)
736 W. North Temple, SLC, 801-322-1489
866 W. South Temple, SLC, 801-214-6050
Red Carpet Interview

Log Haven (2009)
6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Road, SLC, 801-272-8255
Red Carpet Interview

Takashi (2010)
18 W. Market St., SLC, 801-519-9595

Squatters (2011)
147 W. Broadway, SLC, 801-363-2739
776 N. Terminal Dr., SLC, 801-328-2329
Red Carpet Interview

Aristo’s (2013)
224 S. 1300 East, SLC, 801-581-0888

Hell’s Backbone Grill (2013)
20 N. Highway 12, Boulder, 435-335-7464
Red Carpet Interview

Click here to see the 2015 Dining Awards winners.

2014 Dining Awards Readers' Choice Winners

We always want to know what our readers think, and after tallying more than one thousand votes, it’s clear they have very good taste. (Click here to see the 2014 Dining Awards winners chosen by our panel.)

Best Restaurant: SLC
Pallet
237 S. 400 West, SLC, 801-935-4431

Best Restaurant: PC
Silver Star Café
1825 Three Kings Dr., Park City, 435-655-3456

Best Restaurant: Provo/Central Utah
Communal
102 N. University Ave., Provo, 801-373-8000

Best Restaurant: Ogden/Northern Utah
Plates & Palates
390 N. 500 West, Bountiful, 801-292-2425

Best Restaurant: Moab/Southeastern Utah
Hell’s Backbone Grill
20 N. Highway 12, Boulder, 435-335-7464

Best Restaurant: St. George/Southwestern Utah (tie)
The Bear Paw
75 N. Main St., St. George, 435-634-0126

The Painted Pony
2 W. St. George Blvd, St. George, 435-634-1700

Best New Restaurant
Pallet
237 S. 400 West, SLC, 801-935-4431

(Note to readers: Pallet won this award last year and is not a new restaurant. Second place by a close margin was Alamexo.)

Best Japanese
Takashi
18 W. Market St., SLC, 801-519-9595

Best Lunch
Silver Star Café
1825 Three Kings Dr., Park City, 435-655-3456

Best Southeast Asian
Plum Alley
111 East Braodway #190, SLC, 801-355-0543

(Note to readers: By the time you read this, Plum Alley will be closed.)

Best Coffee Shop (tie)
Coffee Garden
878 E. 900 South, SLC, 801-355-3425

The Rose Establishment
235 S. 400 West, SLC, 801-990-6270

Best Chinese
Sampan
675 E. 2100 South, SLC, 801-467-3663
10450 S. State St., Sandy, 801-576-0688

Best Quick Eats
Caputo’s Market & Deli
314 W. 300 South, SLC, 801-531-8669
1516 S. 1500 East, SLC, 801-486-6615

Best Indian
Bombay House
2731 Parleys Way, SLC, 801-581-0222
7726 Campus View Dr. #120, West Jordan, 801-282-0777
463 N. University Ave., Provo, 801-373-6677

Best Italian
Fresco
1513 S. 1500 East, SLC, 801-486-1300

Best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern
Mazza
1515 S. 1500 East, SLC, 801-484-9259
912 E. 900 South, SLC, 801-521-4572

Best Mexican
Red Iguana
736 W. North Temple, SLC, 801-322-1489
866 W. South Temple, SLC, 801-214-6050

Best Breakfast
Pig & A Jelly Jar
401 E. 900 South, SLC, 385-202-7366

Best Comfort Food
Pig & A Jelly Jar
401 E. 900 South, SLC, 385-202-7366

Best Undiscovered
Pallet
237 S. 400 West, SLC, 801-935-4431

Best Wine List
Bistro 222
222 S. Main St., SLC, 801-456-0347

Best Desserts (tie)
Pallet
237 S. 400 West, SLC, 801-935-4431

Silver Star Café
1825 Three Kings Dr., Park City, 435-655-3456

Midway’s Ice Castle

Midway's Ice Castle
Photo by A.J. Mellor/Courtesy Go Heber Valley

A castle is coming to the kingdom of Midway.

Ice Castles, LLC will bring a one-of-a-kind to Midway, as it unveils a massive castle made entirely of ice. This ice castle will feature lofty ice towers, shimmering archways, glowing tunnels and glossy walls—all made completely of ice.

Ice architect Brent Christensen started Ice Castles by building small ice structures in his Alpine yard in 2008. Now, his work has been seen by over 300,000 visitors, and he’s built castles in Colorado and Minnesota.

Christensen comes back to his roots this year with his first large-scale Ice Castle at Midway’s town square, next to the ice rink. Christensen patterned his design for Midway’s castle after well-known geological features across the state, like slot canyons, arches and cave-like tunnels. Guests are invited to not only view the beauty of the structures but to squeeze and crawl through parts of the stunning display.

Each castle is created by hand using only icicles and water. Millions of icicles sparkle a glacial blue by day and glow multi-colored at night with help of thousands of LED lights embedded in the ice. “Ice Castles really are one of the most unique and beautiful places on earth,” Christensen says. “Every visitor gets a distinctive experience since the ice is constantly melting, freezing and being reshaped. It’s an amazing, continuously evolving experience.”

Midway’s ice castle began construction in late November and will be open to the public in late December and possibly through March 2014, weather permitting. The Ice Castle will be open from noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Tickets are $8 Monday through Thursday and $10 Friday and Saturday. Ages 3 and under are free.

Group rates are available. Check out their website to learn more.

Chocolate

Fine chocolate is one of Utah’s secrets—along with powder snow, great microbrews and a vibrant gay culture. But, it’s time to let the cat out of the reusable shopping bag. Forget what you’ve heard about Utah’s low-brow sweet tooth—Salt Lake City is all about making and appreciating exceptional chocolate.

Amano Chocolate of Orem was the first local chocolate-maker to hit the big time. Founded in 2006 by Art Pollard and Clark Goble, within three years it was named one of the top eight bean-to-bar chocolate companies in the world by Martin Christy, founder of both SeventyPercent.com and the Academy of Chocolate. Before it burst onto the American fine-chocolate scene, Amano Chocolate debuted on Caputo Market’s shelves in downtown SLC.

Founding chocolate artisan Pollard is a bit of savant when it comes to beans and sourcing. His were the first American-made bars to be taken seriously, outranking (and ruffling the feathers of) French, Belgian and Italian powerhouses in competitions. It’s because of that single-minded dedication that Pollard has produced some of the most talked about bars in the chocolate world, including Dos Rios (Dominican Republic beans)–a chocolate taste that hits the tongue with blueberries and cream, some woodsy spices, and a wallop of white blossoms like honeysuckle. He just says, “Utah always has had an affinity for chocolate. When we started we were the only bean-to-bar company but now there’s a couple new small ones. We’re honored to be the ones who paved the way.”

Now, Utah also has Mill Creek Cacao, coffee roaster turned cacao roaster; The Chocolate Conspiracy, makers of organic raw chocolate; Mezzo Chocolate, which takes it from beans to brew, and, most recently, Solstice Chocolate, a single-origin producer. To celebrate these and fine international chocolate, Caputo’s hosts a Chocolate Festival every year, inviting local pastry chefs to dream up desserts inspired by chocolate.

But we’re not talking Mars Bars here.


Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate

What’s the diff?

“Chocolate” on the label doesn’t always mean chocolate–one of the major points of enlightenment on the road to becoming a chocolate snob. The snob’s term for what we grew up thinking was chocolate is “mockolate,” meaning candy products made with cocoa solids, but no cocoa butter. Instead, this stuff is made with vegetable oil or some other fat. Legally, it can’t even be called “chocolate;” it has to be labeled “chocolate candy.” When a cacao bean is crushed, the butter and solids are separated. In fine chocolate, they’re mixed back together, along with sugar and vanilla. And even though you may like the flavor of mockolate just fine, remember it doesn’t have any of the health properties associated with true theobroma.

Genuine fine chocolate is made with cocoa solids and cocoa butter from beans from a single country, district or even farm. Depending on its origin and who makes it, the same high-quality bean can yield vastly different flavors.

Yes, we’re talking terroir, a concept fundamental to the wine business and equally important to chocolate.

One of the growing concerns of fine chocolatiers is the chocolate plant itself. As the Fine Chocolate Industry Association says on its website, “The best tasting chocolates in the world are poised for extinction.” Their point is, growers are removing and replacing rare cacao trees with higher-yielding, disease resistant but less flavorful hybrids. When he first started Amano, Pollard says, “Bad cocoa was everywhere. But there was great cacao to be had–fine quality stuff. To get it and use it you had to pay way more than even fair trade and have a personal relationship with the farmers. We always try to have that personal relationship and to be involved. Most of these farmers who make great cacao have never tasted the final product, so I make it a point to bring the finished bar to these producers and have them taste it.”

Pollard recalls, “After working side by side all day with these farmers, I had a bunch gathered and I had them taste the Amano Cuyagua farm. One crusty old farmer came up and told me one of the most profound things. He said, ‘This chocolate is like a river–the flavor of the chocolate goes on and on, it take you to all these wild and wonderful places.’”

The chocolate makers transform the raw beans into gorgeous bars through tricks of science, sweat and possibly, alchemy. It’s usually dark (no milk products, 50-100 percent cocoa), but never bitter. The texture is usually fine (with some exceptions, especially among raw chocolate makers). The chocolate section at Caputo’s Market dazzles emerging chocolate snobs and is a key source for established ones. It’s also the headquarters from which Matt Caputo conducts chocolate-tasting classes and hosts meetings for the Chocolate Society. Here, you can browse, taste and be bowled over by the flavor of something as simple as ground cocoa beans, sugar and vanilla. The young staff is freakishly knowledgeable. Caputo has curated one of the foremost fine chocolate selections in the world according to his peers, i.e. national chocolate experts and the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade which cited Caputo’s chocolate as one of the reasons they named the store one of its “Outstanding Retailers” in 2009.

Utah is also forging ahead in another category: drinking chocolate. Topher and Shannon Webb of Mezzo Chocolate have created a luscious, rich drinking chocolate that puts the insipid instant stuff to shame. Their secret: They make shavings from single-origin bars they’ve crafted themselves. The result is drinking chocolate that is as interesting and fruity as a well-made Spanish Rioja wine.

Like other fresh foods, chocolate has a season, and we are in the middle of it. Granted, the season doesn’t have to do with Mother Nature. It’s determined by human appetite and the mail. From Halloween through Easter is chocolate season, from cool to cool. When the weather warms, chocolate melts quickly and quality is compromised. Of course, the zenith of chocolate season is February 14.

Next>>>Where to get your local chocolate, and why to be a chocolate snob

Grand America's Holiday Window Stroll

Image courtesy of The Grand America Hotel.

The Grand America Hotel has announced its fourth annual Holiday Window Stroll, just in time to kick off the holiday season. The event features 13 unique, whimsical displays in each of the hotel’s retail window. The stroll will start on Black Friday, Nov. 29 at 8 a.m.

This year’s theme for the Holiday Window Stroll is “Santa’s Workshop.” Guests can take a closer look into the magical world of Santa’s helpers as they prepare for the holiday season. “We’re thrilled to invite the local community, as well as guests from all over, to celebrate the magic of the holidays at The Grand,” says Bruce T. Fery, chief executive officer for The Grand America Hotel. “We hope this year’s Holiday Window Stroll, combined with the many holiday events at the hotel, captures the joy of the holiday season for all to enjoy.”

Each window display is meticulously hand-crafted, and includes an animated component that truly captures the imagination. Stroll attendees will receive a “Ticket to the North Pole” to guide their explorations, as well as a special seasonal chocolate at the end of the stroll.

Guests visiting the hotel for the unveiling festivities will be welcomed with eye-catching holiday decor and a host of events, including a book signing and reading of children’s book “Maurice on Holiday.” The first 10 guests to complete the stroll on the launch day will receive a breakfast buffet for two and access to a meet and greet with author Stephen Wunderli and a signed copy of his book.


Photo courtesy of The Grand America Hotel

On Nov. 29 at 10 a.m., don’t miss executive pastry chef Alexandre Henocq and his team as they unveil an intricately crafted 150-square-foot gingerbread house. The two-story house will be displayed in the ballroom corridor throughout the holiday season.

The Holiday Window Stroll hours will be Sunday–Thursday, 4–9 p.m. and Friday–Saturday 10 a.m.–9 p.m.

The window stroll will conclude on Dec. 31.

Karaoke Night in Utah Valley

Photo courtesy of Rock the Mic Entertainment.

Tired of the usual movie night? Karaoke and open-mic nights proliferate Utah Valley, so snag a hot date or some friends, grab the mic and sing your heart out.

And all you first timers, don’t be shy. Have a little sump’m sump’m first if you need to, but don’t let stage fright keep you from a cathartic, confidence-building experience. You’re going to love it.

Here are the best karaoke nights in Utah Valley, where you can sing to your heart’s content (and some recommendations on what you should eat while you’re building up courage).

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill
290 W. University Pkwy., Orem (and all locations)
Tuesdays from 9 p.m. to midnight
Quick tips: best time to go is around 9:30 p.m., appetizers are half off during karaoke night
Tasty eats: Marsala mushroom sirloin, all of the appetizers

Callie’s Café & Sports Bar
466 N. State Street, Orem
Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Quick tips: cash only, a no-frills bar and grill, not a place for yelling a Top 40 song with your hyper girlfriends
Tasty eats: French dip, Pitcher’s Mound with garbage hash browns

Wing Nutz
1054 S. 750 East, Orem
Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to midnight
Quick tips: hosted by Rock the Mic Entertainment, more than 35,000 songs to choose from
Tasty eats: wings, wings, wings and wild wraps

Guru’s Cafe
45 E. Center Street, Provo
Saturdays from 8 to 10 p.m.
Quick tips: people love event host DJ Brady Mac from Rock the Mic Entertainment, karaoke night has been going for four years here
Tasty eats: Marco Polo pasta, sweet potato fries with Southwest fry sauce, cilantro-lime quesadillas

Pizza Pie Cafe
2235 N. University Pkwy., Provo
Tuesdays from 9 p.m. to midnight
Quick tips: the $6 entrance fee covers the buffet, a drink and karaoke; go right around 9 p.m. if you want a good seat, also hosted by Rock the Mic Entertainment
Tasty eats: “Cinnamon Stix” dessert pizza, Hillbilly and barbecue pizzas

More of the open-mic type? Grab your guitar and you can perform your covers and originals at these places.

Velour
135 N. University Ave., Provo
Tuesdays from 8:30 to 11 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.)
Quick tips: $3 for general public, $2 for open-mic performers, all ages can sign up at the door to perform (start lining up an hour before), acoustic—no full bands
Tasty eats: candy and snacks available, large selection of canned and bottled sodas

Muse Music
151 N. University Ave., Provo
Wednesdays from 8:30 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.)
Quick tips: $1 to get in, 10 performance slots, comedians and poets also welcome, performers get up to eight minutes
Tasty eats: café always open during shows, get the grilled cheese and edamame

The Deerhunter Pub
2000 N. 300 West, Spanish Fork
Wednesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. is open-mic night with Brother Chunky
Sundays from 8 to 11 p.m. is karaoke/open-mic night
Quick tips: this is a 21+ bar
Tasty eats: grill is closed, because they don’t have a cook right now—sorry!

Have You Heard of Stikwood?

Have You Heard of Stikwood Yet?

Stikwood is popping up everywhere, from basements to bedrooms to restaurants. It’s a great DIY product, but also a good tool for designers and specifiers. I first saw it this summer at dwell on design, and have been looking for opportunities to use it ever since.

It’s literally a peel-and-stick wood product. It’s easy, affordable, and it’s REAL WOOD!

Here you see it being applied:

I think it’s perfect for the back of a kitchen bar:

Or behind a bed:

Or to spice up a TV/entertainment center area:

The possibilities are pretty much endless!

All images above from the Stikwood facebook page.

Nicole Zeigler, CKBR, Allied ASID, NCIDQ is the owner/lead designer at enzy design, LLC; specializing in kitchen & bathroom design and residential remodeling. enzydesign.com

Family Means Business: The Story Behind Harmons


Left to Right, Back Row: Mark Hauber, Laurie Harmon, Randy Harmon, Bob Harmon, Jerry Stowe, Brady Harmon, Kristine Harmon. Front Row: Amber Hauber, Alex Harmon, Jamie Harmon, Emily Harmon, Doreen Harmon, Corrine Store, Jenn Harmon, Ashley Harmon.

If you think short term, things will be short term. “But when your family and your business are one and the same, short term is not an option,” says Bob Harmon.

Bob and his brother, Randy—familiar faces in Utah—his mother, Doreen; his sister Jamie and his sister-in-law Laurie are seated around a table at Harmons HQ, a modest building not far from the site of Bob, Jamie and Randy’s grandfather’s first grocery store. A conversation about their family’s business ranges from personal memories to business philosophy—for the Harmons, it’s all one subject.

Taking Root

“We’ve learned more in the last decade than in the previous 25 years. It’s an exciting time in our industry. It’s changed so fast and so much for the better,” says Bob, who, along with Randy, has become the face of Harmons, appearing in print, television and radio ads, as well as in person at store events. That personal, hands-on approach is part of the Harmons legacy.

As Bob tells it, “Grandpa (Jake Harmon) grew up poor.” Born George Reese Harmon in 1912 in Granger (now part of West Valley City), Utah, Jake’s mother died when he was 6 years old and his formal education ended after junior high school. A young man when the Depression hit, he and his wife, Irene, worked in California to make some money. With $325 saved up, the couple returned to Utah and opened Market Spot, a fruit stand, building it from the ground up and investing everything they had. The day of the grand opening, the story goes, Irene turned to Jake and asked “How much money do we have left?” Jake pulled out his pocket lining, chuckled and replied, “Eighty cents.” A man in a garbage truck pulled up and purchased six lemons. So with that sale and 80 cents, Jake and Irene were on their way.

Their son Terry was born in the home behind the store, where Jake and Irene lived until they sold the Market Spot and opened a cafe. But they went back to the grocery business, opening Harmons Market, better known as the Green Store, in Granger in 1945. It was the most modern, best-stocked store in the state—by the ‘60s, grown son Terry and his wife Doreen had moved back to Utah from Arizona to help run things. In 1971, a catastrophe occurred: Fire completely destroyed the Granger store. And the family had no insurance.

With help from vendors, Jake regrouped. He traveled and researched food stores around the country, planning his dream store with Terry’s help. In 1971, they opened Harmons Super Center in West Valley—a big success and thrst of a string of successful stores, the most recent, at City Creek Center, the company’rst urban grocery.

Fresh Values

The American grocery business has changed vastly, just in the last couple of decades. For generations, food shopping in this country was driven by convenience and price—meals were just fuel, after all. When big box and discount stores started to sell groceries at cut-throat prices, a lot of family-owned grocery stores went out of business. They just couldn’t compete with the buying power of the big guys. “We took a look at the whole thing: It was all price driven,” says Bob. “That was the only value. At Harmons, we offer different values, like service. That’s where we can win.”

Americans have changed their food shopping habits, Bob points out, and largely because of information consumers have gathered themselves, not because of marketing information pushed at them. We’re learning that to get the cleanest food, the most avorful food, the locally grown food, we might have to pay a little more.

Bob recalls, “We toured Italy: It made us rethink our business. That food culture is hundreds of years old. The care they took with things. The time. Things like understanding the chemistry of balsamic vinegar. We started reevaluating time and its value. We had to be different.”


Left to right: Randy, Doreen, Jamie and Bob Harmon.

Inspired by foreign food ways and the rising enthusiasm for local products, Harmons changed its emphasis to quality, variety and service. They sent their bakers to the San Francisco Baking Institute to learn about artisan bread. They re-thought their butcher shop, started dry-aging their own meats and hand-cutting their chickens. They made new commitments to buying from local farmers and started cooking schools to teach customers how to use their products. Four Harmons stores are certid organic: Bangerter, City Creek, Station Park and Emigration. The City Creek store has licensed wine educators in its cooking school.

“Unlike large grocery chains, we have the advantage of nimbleness,” Randy explains. We’re able to change quickly. We’re not answering to stockholders. The scale is dierent. We don’t have to worry about knee-jerk reactions to trends; we are able to do more long-term planning.”

“Our business actually grew during the recession,” says Bob. “Instead of cutting back, we decided to re-invest and we didn’t need (to go to stockholders for) permission. We staed up with the goal of providing better service, which is often thrst thing cut in hard times.”

Future Growth

The success rate of third-generation family-owned businesses is about 10 percent.

There’s the founder, who is completely immersed in it. The second generation grows up with it. The third generation enjoys the returns from a successful business. That generation also takes the success for granted and a downward spiral begins.

That third generation is where the Harmons are now. But there’s no downward spiral.

“Instead of looking at our history, we’re always looking ahead,” says Bob. There’s no reverence for “the way we used to do things.”

“But we are building on Grandpa Jake’s example. Arst he was slightly fearful of growth—the founder of a business is there all the time. It’s hard to let someone else run things,” says Randy. “Our dad Terry was the only son, he grew up with the store at the center of family life. It was hard arst for Jake to think of a second store, but he did. He learned to enjoy and take pride in other people’s success. That’s key to managing a family business.”

“It’s about people,” says Laurie, Randy’s wife who is in charge of Harmons human resources, or, as she describes it, “I’m the ‘executive VP for the people.’ We have 16 stores but it feels like one,” she says. “We’re all on the same team, from Bob and Randy to the shelf-stockers.”

Fifteen family members work in Harmons stores now. But according to the family plan, the fifth generation has to work elsewhere until the age of 21. No one is forced or expected to join the family firm.

“Our family is a strength, but it’s also a potential weakness,” says Bob. “We do a lot of family therapy because those family relationships are business relationships, too.”

Four generations of the Harmon family now work in the grocery business Jake and Irene Harmon founded in 1932—the hope is that future Harmon generations will have that opportunity, too. Keeping up with swiftly changing times requires extraordinary nimbleness and close communication—the Harmons have honed both, allowing them to take an optimistic view of their future as Utah’s go-to grocers. To be, as their motto says, remarkable.

Next>>>Harmon’s Outsider on the Inside and their Milepost timline.

Back>>>Read other stories in our December 2013 issue.

Local Haunts: Your Ghost Stories!


Salt Lake magazine gathered these ghost stories YOU submitted to us onsaltlakemagazine.com and facebook.com/SaltLakemag:

Purple Lovin’ Ghost in Memory Grove

Thought I would send over this little gem of a picture I took at Memory Grove a couple falls ago. The people who work at the Memorial House reception center in Memory Grove say it is haunted by a woman who loves the color purple. The ghost’s face appears in the window pane to the right, above the father’s head. I shot ten frames in this exact location, and in all the other frames, you can see my reflection in the window, but no face.

I wasn’t the one that noticed it, the client texted me late one night after I put her previews up on my blog to say that she had enlarged the photo and made it her screensaver, and that is when she saw it. She thought it was interesting because while we were taking the photos, I was telling them about the rumors I had heard about the ghost and how she liked the color purple and that since my client was wearing a purple sweater, maybe the ghost would visit us.

I go back there and shoot in that exact window every time I do a session in Memory Grove, but to date, have not captured anything like this since that day. —Photographer, Carrie Butler, via e-mail

Editor’s Note—We called Memorial House, and they confirmed the rumors of a purple-loving, lady ghost.

Cottonwood Heights’ Haunted Mill

One of my favorite haunted places is the Old MIll in Cottonwood Heights. We went to film there for fun, and the site already is eerie during the night after being shut down for several decades now. When we filmed into the old windows you could see eerie things going on through them that the camera was picking up. All in all, that place is just creepy and I swear it is haunted! —Jamie Bowen, via facebook.com/SaltLakemag

Editor’s Note—Jamie is referring to the paper mill formerly used by the Deseret News at 6845 S. Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Ghost on the Green River

Along the Green River, near Flaming Gorge, there is a lovely spot where river-rafters like to launch their crafts. My husband and I were to rendezvous with several friends for a day on the river. As we waited for everyone to arrive, I wandered the surrounding area until I found myself on a promontory overlooking the Green River and the spectacular red canyons beyond.

Here I sat down on a low rock, turned my face toward the sun, and closed my eyes, feeling deliciously warm and a little bit sleepy. That is when I felt it. Less than a touch, but more than a whisper, something was keeping me company. Well, something or…someone.

This is the part of my tale where I sound like a crazy woman. My new friend, the “whispery presence” let me know that this special place was where he used to sit and keep a lookout; watching and waiting, while fashioning arrowheads to fill the long hours.

He told me he had lost one of his arrowheads here, and if I would simply brush through the earth at my feet, I would find it. I didn’t doubt for a moment that I would indeed find his missing treasure. So, I slowly reached down, gently pushed aside the dirt and rocks at my fingertips, and gazed at the small gray arrowhead. —Melanie Inskeep, via saltlakemagazine.com

The Old House in Draper

I never believed in ghosts until one day I saw a little old house for sale on Fort St in Draper.

My husband & I got out & walked around it since it looked abandoned & immediately I had a strange feeling. It seemed like someone was watching us but there was nobody around.

Then the sprinklers came on & they were just connected to hoses – not the automatic kind. I ran back to the car but my husband looked in the windows & said nobody could possibly be living there since the few things inside were covered with dust & cobwebs. SCARY! —Sonja Jorgensen, via facebook.com/SaltLakemag

Asylum 49 Meetup in Tooele

I visited Asylum 49 in Tooele for their first official meetup. My friend and I both noticed an eerie feeling in one area of the room we were in. Since we both had felt it in the same spot, I was sure it wasn’t just my imagination.

Later, as I was about to leave, we were taken through the old hospital and I glanced down a hall and a door was open to one of the old rooms. The guy who was leading us out noticed I was looking in that direction and asked if I’d seen anything. I hadn’t seen anything, but I had a feeling there was something especially strange about that room. He told us that was where a number of people died, which would explain the negative energy that seemed to spill out into the hallway from that area of the hospital. —Brianna Kent, via facebook.com/SaltLakemag

Editor’s Note—Asylum 49 Paranormal Investigators are a local ghost hunting group, who meet in the old Tooele Hospital. Recently, an episode of Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel was filmed at the hospital.

Grandma Comes Back to Visit

When I was 2 years old, my grandma passed away. . 2 years later, my sister and I shared a bedroom down in the basement of the house we were living in. Well one night just before we were about to fall asleep, we looked in our doorway of our bedroom, and we saw our grandma in the doorway, and when one of us got up to turn the light on, she was gone… We told our mom the next day what my grandma was wearing, and my mom told us that was the exact outfit my grandma was buried in. I believe my sister and I had the chance to see her spirit, because it was her way of checking up on her grandkids. —Tiffany Nielsen, via saltlakemagazine.com

Horror Scene at SLC Cemetery

You all have seen it in the movies. Someone is trying to escape harm and the engine to their car will not start. Crank, crank, crank, and then at the last minute the car starts and they get away. Don’t you hold your breath when that happens…” Come on, come on. Oh thank G-d”.

My boyfriend lived in the Avenues area of Salt Lake City, his apartment adjacent to a cemetery. It was a peaceful and serene scene during the day and I would often appreciate its beauty. But at night, when I would leave his apartment to drive home, the rustling of leaves,the moaning of the wind, the squeal of a cat, the shadowy figures cutting through the grave yard to walk home or perhaps just wander,made my heart pound. What was I really hearing and who was I really seeing? At night I always held my breath until I had driven past the headstones. Safe again.

One winter night it had been snowing. Freezing outside, a white blanket covered my car. As I left the apartment to go home, the grave yard looked particularly eerie. I wanted to get away as quickly as I could. I began to move out from the curb, but my car became stuck. I was panicked. I pressed on the gas harder and spinning my wheels my car became more embedded in the snow. I could feel the graveyard closing in on me. I put the car in forward, then reverse over and over again. Could I rock my car out?

I was shaking. I was sure I could see movement in the graveyard. I couldn’t swallow. My legs were shaking so hard I could barely keep my foot on the gas pedal.

Then I felt a loud thump and a banging on the trunk of my car. My heart jumped, I became paralyzed with fear.

Someone, something, started to walk along the side of the car to the drivers window. My heart was pounding out of my chest. A figure leaned against my car door.

Then a familiar voice. “Put your car in drive, I’m gong to try to push you out.”

And when we got married, I would not live in that beautiful apartment adjacent to the cemetery graced by day and perhaps haunted by night. We sometimes drive to see his old apartment, looking at the window that was once his, and I look across to the graveyard, the trees, and the headstones, and am thankful that we live really really far away. —Lynne Cohen, via saltlakemagazine.com

Ghost at the Old Spaghetti Factory

I had a ghost touch me on the shoulder and say “Hi” close to my ear. I was having dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Trolley Square. When I turned around no one was there. —Angela Richey, via facebook.com/SaltLakemag

Spooky House in West Valley

I have a spooky story. So there is a house in West Valley that my friend used to live at. It was a typical red-brick house with a ground floor and a basement. Well, we were at her house alone one day in the basement room directly at the bottom of the stairs. To the right was a door to a bathroom. Both the door to the room we were in and the door to the bathroom were wide open. We actually saw the door to the bathroom close, and we didn’t think anything of it. Probably a draft or something. But then we hear the toilet seat slam and we think someone else must be in the house. So we go and check to see if her family is home. No go. So we go back downstairs and the door to the bathroom is still closed, and then we hear the toilet flush. Both of us start wigging out a little thinking someone is in the bathroom, so we open the door and no one is there. The window in the bathroom was too small for anyone to have gone through! Spooky right? —Steve Scriven, via facebook.com/SaltLakemag

Grandpa Says Goodbye

When I was a little kid, after my grandpa passed away, I was playing in my grandparent’s backyard in Ogden, and i heard my grandpa’s voice. I think he was telling me not to be sad that it was ok. —Elise Phipps, via facebook.com/SaltLakemag

Bad Vibes at Kay’s Cross

There is a part of the path leading to Kay’s Cross in Kaysville that is narrow and has a fence on both sides. My friends and I would always get really “bad vibes” when going through there. Everywhere else was fine, but when we went through the narrow path we all stopped talking at the same time and walked really fast. It felt like something (other than cops and the guy that owns the land) didn’t want us there. —Brittany Hackett, via facebook.com/SaltLakemag

Editor’s Note—Some submissions were edited due to length or clarity.

If you have a ghost story you haven’t shared with us yet, post it in the comments below.

Blade Runner


Knifesmith John Ftizen totes a lethal armory of his art. Right: Bowie and  “Frankenstein” knives. Photo by Adam Finkle.

The moment you see John Fitzen, you know this is a guy from another time and place. A time when people shunned lawyers and courts and settled disputes with Bowie knives. A place where Rob Roy or keelboatman Mike Fink would feel right at home.

“Everybody knows me—that guy with the kilt and knives,” shrugs Fitzen, who is built like a tallish dwarf.

That’s the least of Fitzen’s visual impact. Take the accessories. His right hand sports at least three skull rings, plus a skull-motif bracelet; on his left, a couple of Iron Crosses and a knife-fighting wrist band of thick elephant hide.

Fitzen is proud of being a throwback—a master knifesmith who hand-forges Damascus blades that shimmer like a contour map of iron and steel. “It’s my art,” Fitzen says.

It’s an ancient decorative art that requires engraving, wax castings of brass, silver and gold for pommels and elephant ivory (salvaged from old tchotchkes) for handles.

In the folds and recesses of his leather kilt, Fitzen carries a foot-long fighting knife—beautiful in its ferocity, a stubby all-purpose “rhinoceros” blade, a slab-like “Mini Bully” folding knife—and, after rooting around, he dredges up a Goth-black Swiss Army knife, complete with corkscrew.

But Fitzen isn’t a Luddite. Like Indiana Jones, he knows what happens to the guy who brings a knife to a gun fight. Reaching behind his back, Fitzen unholsters an engraved semi-auto pistol. Its slide gleams with dark waves of Damascus steel. If Highlander should happen to appear in Salt Lake, he’ll claim this .45 as his own.

In the unlikely event the .45 jams, Fitzen is packing two stainless-steel .22 magnum derringers and a taser rides on his left hip. On the back of his belt is a telescoping fighting baton.

In all, Fitzen walks around with 13 pounds of fighting steel, and that’s not counting a skull-chain attached to his wallet that could double as a nasty mace.

“I’m not paranoid,” he says, explaining that his personal armory is simply a mobile sample case. “It sells knives for me. People ask me ‘Why do you carry all that?’ By the time I explain it, I end up selling stuff.”

In a Salt Lake shop, Fitzen makes his blades by hand, folding, forging and refolding up to 600 layers of iron and high-carbon steel into feathery layers for strength and a superb edge. His Skull Knives line sell for $200 upwards to $10,000, which makes sense when he shows you a blade forged from an alloy that contains nickel steel from a meteorite.

Above all, Fitzen is a master of sharpening blades—which, as the growing subculture of knife connoisseurs and collectors will tell you, is as important as the blade itself.

“I’m really known for my edges,” Fitzen says, as he sharpens a blade in his cave-like shop. “I get knives sent to me from all over the world to sharpen.”

Fitzen’s business is supported by a convergence of subcultures, including a growing demographic of young guys who are fascinated by blade lore, history and knife combat. They tend to gravitate toward Fitzen’s Bowies (a nasty weapon made famous by Texas legend Jim Bowie) and “Frankenstein” knives (a brutal blade that incorporates bolts reminiscent of the ones in the monster’s neck). Survivalists embrace Bowies as a basic tool: “These knives are like a Roman short sword. You can do anything with these knives—chop a tree down or shave with them,” Fitzen explains.

Another knife market is in the geekdom of Goth and fantasy addicts, who are drawn to the dark glamour of Fitzen’s art. He creates functional beauty that will eviscerate an orc or saber open a champagne bottle.

“A guy came in who said, ‘I’m the King of the Elves. I want to commission a sword from you,’” Fitzen recalls. “I said, sure. Unfortunately, I later found out he didn’t have the elvish magic to pay for it.”

Click here to visit his business, Skull Knives & The Razor’s Edge, online.

WEB EXTRA>>>Watch our video of Fitzen at work.

Next>>>Shoshone teens create a video game to save their language.

Back>>>Read other stories from our December 2013 issue.

Never Stop: The Story of Huntsman Corporation

Next generation: Jon Huntsman Sr., flanked by Jon Jr., left, and Peter. Photo courtesy of Huntsman Corporation.

Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, was leading a group pushing an idea they believed would put Utah at the cutting edge in high-tech innovation. In the mid-2000s, they hoped the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, with funding from the Legislature, would allow the state’s universities to commercialize technologies that would seed start-up businesses and create hundreds of high-paying jobs.

But the group had a problem: Community leaders didn’t grasp USTAR’s forward-leaning concept of melding academics and entrepreneurs into a job-creating machine. “We had a difficult time getting the Utah State Legislature and others involved to see why it was so important to our state,” Beattie recalls.

He turned to Jon M. Huntsman Sr.

“I needed to get some business leaders and legislators to Arizona to see what that state was doing,” Beattie says. “So, I called Jon and asked if we could borrow his private jet.”

Huntsman’s response was quick and typical for him: “Great, when are you going?”

“We took a group of 17 to Phoenix, all on Jon’s dime, for a one-day trip, and they were hooked,” Beattie says. “We wouldn’t have USTAR today without his contribution and support.”

Utahns knows of the Huntsman family philanthropy in cancer research and treatment. But it’s only a part of the family’s impact. “They simply don’t get the credit they deserve for all they’ve done,” says Beattie, whose Chamber named Jon Huntsman a “Giant In Our City” a few years ago. “Jon and Karen are the epitome of strength.”

A Life of Determination

In his worldwide corporation, philanthropic endeavors and his Mormon faith, Jon M. Huntsman Sr. has led a life of determination. Adversity has never stopped him, nor diverted him from the goals beyond business success. The patriarch of the Huntsman clan has always considered work an opportunity and a satisfaction. It’s no surprise he titled his best-selling business bookWinners Never Cheat.

On a chilly late spring afternoon, the fire still burns as the 76-year-old entrepreneur-extreme chats from the family-owned Huntsman Springs resort in Idaho, not far from where he was raised near Blackfoot. “I’ve been working on some ideas for four new companies I’m quite excited about,” he says. “You get those motivations in your youth, and you never stop.”

Though most of the day-to-day running of the multi-billion dollar Huntsman Corporation has passed on to the family’s younger generations, its founder and executive chairman has never slowed down—not even when faced with economic or health challenges, and he’s had his share of the latter: prostate, mouth and two skin cancers—squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. But in his estimation, it was far worse to watch his daughter, Kathleen, succumb to drug addiction at 44.

Much of the family’s legacy (carried forward with the help of his nine children and his wife of 54 years, Karen Haight Huntsman) is based on Huntsman’s early upbringing. “My father was a school teacher in Thomas, Idaho,” he recalls. “He made $99 a month and we lived in a two-room house. No indoor plumbing for the first five or six years of my life.”

When Blaine Huntsman decided to go back to college at age 40, the family moved to Palo Alto where he attended Stanford University. Student housing consisted of World War II-era Quonset huts, which meant an even more cramped existence for a family of five.

“From seventh grade on, it was my job to provide for all the medical and automobile expenses,” Huntsman remembers. “My brother Blaine and I worked jobs after school and on weekends, and all the money went into a family pot. It was never a regular home—it gave me the determination to never raise my family under those adverse conditions.”

Thinking Inside the Box

In 1961, after graduating from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, Huntsman joined Olson Brothers, Inc., an egg-producer in Los Angeles. It was at Olson that he first conceived the idea for a Styrofoam egg carton that revolutionized the egg industry. The seemingly mundane change in egg cartons led to the family’s fortune. By 1970, Huntsman had his own company, Huntsman Container Corporation, in Fullerton, Calif. And in 1974, HCC created the famous “clamshell” container used for decades by McDonald’s. The company also invented 30 other products, including the first disposable plastic dishes. Huntsman does not disclose his wealth, but on its 2010 “World’s Richest Persons” list, Forbes put him at 937. “I learned in those first 10 years in the business world that people can selectively determine what they want in life, or take charge,” Huntsman says. “Work was always very serious, but very enjoyable, and the hours didn’t matter. They still don’t.”

An In-House Board of Directors

Huntsman decided in 1970 that his company’s board of directors would be his children. “They learned how to make decisions on buying businesses and making them work,” he recalls. “Each would be asked to speak at family gatherings, and we all participated as a team. From acquisitions to expansions, each was asked to give his point of view.”

Son Peter Huntsman, the CEO and President of Huntsman Corporation, remembers well being on the board. “He was trying instill in us an idea of inclusiveness, self worth, of being a part of what he was doing.”

Outside the Business Box

Jon Huntsman Sr. also led his family in another direction that has defined the family’s legacy.  “I have always felt it’s important to address the needs of the community,” he says. “Karen and I made the decision we’d be consistent in what we’d give—starting small and then every year giving more and more of our income to charities.” At times, that has meant leveraging personal and professional assets to continue to meet and increase those charitable commitments. “You can never pull back from people who are already suffering and counting on you,” Huntsman says. “When you’ve made that commitment, it’s iron-clad.”

The Huntsman philanthropies include the Huntsman Awards for Education, which honor educators; the Huntsman World Senior Games, which provides athletic competitions for over-50 athletes; and the Huntsman Cancer Institutein Salt Lake City. The globally recognized institute is Jon Huntsman’s passion. As a cancer survivor himself, he has worked tirelessly the past 20 years since he started the ball rolling for the HCI with a $10 million donation to the University of Utah in 1993. That was just the beginning, as the Huntsmans have donated $400 million to the project over the years and helped raise an addition $1 billion through grants and other fund raising efforts. That has allowed the development of a state-of-the-art hospital that provides tens of thousands of chemotherapy sessions and radiation treatments annually. “Jon and Karen Huntsman have completely changed the landscape for cancer care in Utah and around the world,” says Mary Beckerle, CEO and Director of the Institute since 2006. “What we’re accomplishing here is unparalleled around the world. It couldn’t have happened without the benevolence of the Huntsmans.”

Next generation 

The third generation of Huntsmans has begun taking roles in the family business. Peter Huntsman Jr. is moving to Singapore to work on business development for the corporation. A son-in-law of Peter’s, John Calder, is working in business development out of the corporate headquarters in Texas. Along with business opportunities, the Huntsman family has passed on its tradition of philanthropy as well. “We grew up knowing that giving back was a given,” Peter Huntsman says. “We’d be involved in all sorts of things, and we still are. Whatever we made, we’d give back to society.”

“You have to surround yourself with people who believe in what you believe in, ” Jon Huntsman says. “We feel very fortunate that each of our children works hard, and each has been successful in their own way. That’s an indicator that our priorities are in the right place.”

Next>>>Huntsman Corporation Through the Years, America’s CEO

Back>>>Read other stories in our October 2013 issue.

Historical Fiction: Holes in the Story

historicalfiction3

Ellsworth visits Cody, Wyo., named for American showman and bison hunter William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Photo courtesy of BYUtv.

When he was growing up in northern Virginia, Ellsworth said, he used to ride his bike up Henry House Hill, where Gen. Thomas Jackson reputedly earned his nickname.

Stonewall is still up there. Big and bronze and ripped like a superhero, imposingly seated astride his horse, and daring the Union Army to come knock him down—just like the stories say he was in the First Battle of Bull Run.

Turns out, though, there’s some dispute among historians as to where Jackson really got that nickname—and whether it was meant as a compliment or an insult. But like many stories of history that have been repeated so often, it’s gotten tough to tell truth from fiction.

And maybe that’s what Ellsworth thought would happen when he began telling stories about his past.

Bring together a biography strewn across news articles, marketing materials and interviews, and the tales told about Ellsworth are as herculean as that big old statue in Manassas.

Some of it is accurate. Lots of it is exaggerated. Much of it is fallacious.

A bio for a History Channel pilot in which Ellsworth once starred claims he served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps and “fought for his country in the Middle East.” The Marines say that’s absolutely not true.

A post on BYUtv’s Facebook page asserts Ellsworth earned a doctorate from the University of Utah. The U says that didn’t happen.

Ellsworth has claimed on numerous occasions he played linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. Team officials say it’s possible he attended a training camp or served on a practice squad, but they can’t find any record of him.

Ellsworth has also indicated he was a defensive coordinator at the University of Arizona and University of Pennsylvania. That’s not true either. He appears to have had some short stints as an assistant coach at lower division schools including Arizona Western College and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He is also listed as a graduate coaching assistant at the University of Utah in the mid-1980s; one former U. athletic staffer said Ellsworth’s oft-made claim to have been a defensive coordinator there was akin to a graduate teaching assistant claiming to be a professor.

Ellsworth told Salt Lake magazine he earned a teaching credential from Westminster College and taught history at Highland High School before getting fed up with the public education system. Records from those institutions show Ellsworth enrolled but didn’t complete any classes at Westminster, and that he was fired for cause from Highland; the district declined to reveal why it terminated him.

Ellsworth also told the magazine his wife was murdered in front of their children while he was away pursuing his football career. That, unfortunately, is mostly true: Police and media reports from the fall of 1996 show Lisa Ellsworth was stabbed to death while her kids played in an adjacent room. She was not, however, married to Stan Ellsworth at the time—they’d been divorced for more than two years. The presumed killer, who subsequently took his own life, was Lisa Ellsworth’s common-law husband.

Stan Ellsworth has repeatedly spoken of American Ride as a concept he created and unsuccessfully pitched to various production companies for eight years before BYUtv grabbed hold in 2010.

Filmmaker Peter Starr said that’s absolutely not true. Starr first met Ellsworth when the Utah-based actor—whose resume was then limited to a role as a basketball coach in the Disney movie The Luck of the Irish and as an extra in one episode of a USA Network show called Cover Me—auditioned for a role on a TV pilot called History Hogs. The History Channel, which had optioned the pilot, declined to greenlight the series, so Starr worked with Ellsworth to create a similarly themed show, which they called “American Ride.”

Starr, who was battling an illness at the time, said Ellsworth agreed to pitch the show to potential producers, but repeatedly told him that the program had failed to be picked up.

“One day he just stopped calling,” said Starr, who didn’t learn that Ellsworth had gone on to sell the show to BYUtv until he was contacted by Salt Lakemagazine. “It would appear that I was just cut out altogether.”

Starr said he would be discussing the matter further with an attorney.

The terms of Ellsworth’s contract with BYUtv are private, but records from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development show that Utah taxpayers have subsidized American Ride to the tune of $200,000. BYUtv managing director Derek Marquis declined to address any of Ellsworth’s apparent lies, instead referring calls to an East Coast public relations firm.

Confronted with a list of apparent fabrications, Ellsworth said he may have “combined some parts of my history for simplicity.”

Without accepting responsibility for any specific lie, Ellsworth acknowledged that “I should have been much more proactive in protecting the validity of who I am.”

But the grizzly voiced actor flatly denied any involvement in the story of his service in the Marines. He said he had “no idea where anyone would have gotten that from.”

Starr, though, said that’s just one more lie. “He talked about being in the military all the time,” he said. “And the sad thing of all of this is that I don’t think anyone would have cared. In the case of our show, he read for the part and he was dead-on right for it—that’s all we cared about. None of that other stuff mattered.”

Out of the Past

historicalfiction2
Ellsworth with a film crew at Refugio State Beach in California. Photo courtesy of BYUtv.

Ellsworth is an unquestionably captivating storyteller. And while the claims he has made about his personal history are interesting, it’s his personality that has driven the Emmy-winning show’s success. So why the exaggerations?

“It’s a good question,” Ellsworth said. “I’ve never sat back and evaluated it. I guess this is one of those Dr. Phil moments.”

It’s not clear when all the stories began, though many seem to be revisions of painful personal failures. Three divorces. A futile effort to play in the NFL. An aborted try for a graduate degree. A fruitless attempt to break more deeply into the NCAA coaching ranks. A messy termination from a job teaching history.

“To some degree, I think I haven’t wanted a whole lot of people to really know me,” Ellsworth said. “I suppose I’ve thought that a little bit of distance, however it is achieved, might be more comfortable.”

He stressed the community work he’s done since he began hosting American Ride.

“You know, I’ve been volunteering with the Boy Scouts, I try to visit schools, and I’m really trying to set a good example for people,” he said. “I’m getting better. I’m definitely not perfect. But if I live another 10 years, I think I’ll be all-pro.”

Not everyone thinks Ellsworth is so redeemable, though.

Utah real estate agent Amir Haskic said Ellsworth’s purported football experience was key when he invested $30,000 in a 2009 documentary on the University of Utah’s undefeated season and Sugar Bowl victory. The project was shepherded by Utah video producer Lance Huber, who had earlier worked with Ellsworth on a series of Comcast commercials.

“I honestly didn’t know very much about football, but I thought, here is a guy with all the credentials, a guy who played in the NFL,” Haskic said.

Huber’s wife, Leanna Huber, said her husband also figured Ellsworth’s purported football career would make him perfect to fundraise for the film. When Ellsworth reported back that he’d gotten money from multiple investors, it seemed Huber’s hunch was right.

But when it came time for Ellsworth to transfer the money, Leanna Huber said, the checks bounced. Lance Huber emptied savings and retirement accounts to pay the salaries of his documentary crew.

“Lance was very trusting,” Leanna Huber said. “He always thought Stan was a friend, and it was very painful for him to learn that wasn’t true.”

Huber killed himself on the evening of Sept. 2, 2009. Leanna Huber said Ellsworth’s betrayal wasn’t the only thing haunting her husband, “but it was one more thing, one more terrible thing, that he was carrying.”

To that point, police records show, investigators had considered Huber a key victim and witness in a developing fraud case against Ellsworth. After the suicide investigators removed Huber from the list of victims, having reluctantly concluded they’d lost their main witness to a key part of the case.

Still, on the basis of an apparent theft from two other investors who had kept good records of their dealings with Ellsworth, Salt Lake County prosecutors were able to charge Ellsworth with felony securities fraud.

In 2010 Ellsworth pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and, with as much as a year in jail hanging over him, agreed to pay back the victims in the case at a rate of $800 a month.

“And then nothing happened,” Haskic said.

The court later issued a garnishment order to Disney in hopes of recovering any residuals Ellsworth might receive for his work his work on The Luck of the Irish and High School Musical 3, in which Ellsworth had a small role in 2008.

Haskic said he’d pretty much given up on getting his money back. “I don’t really know why he’s not in jail,” he said.

Indeed, court records show that a warrant was issued for Ellsworth’s arrest after he failed to pay the ordered restitution—and the warrant remained active during much of the time Ellsworth was traveling across the country to film American Ride.

After a three-year delinquency, Ellsworth’s attorney, Fred Metos, finally paid the restitution, court records show. The payment came just weeks after Salt Lake magazine began its investigation into Ellsworth’s past.

With that, the warrant was rescinded and the guilty plea, which had been held in abeyance as is typical in fraud cases in which prosecutors are seeking to recover as much money as possible for victims, was dismissed.

Plans are now reportedly in order to take American Ride overseas for visits to World War I and II battlegrounds where tens of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were killed in the field of battle.

“So pretty much, he’s gotten away with it,” Leanna Huber said. “He never suffered. And in the eyes of so many people, he’s a big hero. But actually, he’s just a big fraud.”

Matthew D. LaPlante is an assistant professor of journalism at Utah State University. He loves history, rides a Harley Davidson Iron 883 and remains a fan of American Ride

Historical Fiction


Photo courtesy of BYUtv.

There are lies and there are damn lies. And then there is American history.

History is, after all, written by the winners. And from settlement to geo-economic dominance, our plucky countrymen have long managed to come out on the winning side of human events. That’s what makes American exceptionalism so alluring—the evidence of God’s favor seems to be everywhere.

Of course, there are all those pesky, less virtuous details to deal with. Slavery and Jim Crow. Carpet bombings and ethnic internment. Proxy wars and puppet governments. That’s where revisionism comes in handy. Sometimes, after all, it is simply easier to tell a story than deal with the truth.

Stan Ellsworth seems to understand this all too well.

The Utah actor and host of BYUtv’s hit history series, American Ride, is an unabashed advocate for American exceptionalism.

“I do believe this nation was founded by Providence,” said the 6-foot-2-inch, 300-pound blonde-bearded biker, a self-proclaimed “Southern boy” who said he grew up idolizing General Stonewall Jackson and other heroes of the Confederacy.

“A lot of people want to run down the great men of American history,” Ellsworth said. “They focus on the mistakes, and they’re all too willing to forget the noble sacrifices.”

But that, Ellsworth said, doesn’t excuse the failings. “People can be proud of this country and they should be proud of this country,” he said. “But they have to be honest, too.”

Indeed, on his show Ellsworth peppers his nationalism with a healthy dose of smack-you-in-the-face reality. And so, when it comes to a war that many fellow Southerners still blame on “Northern aggression,” Ellsworth won’t abide by Dixie revisionism.

Those who say the South seceded over “states rights,” he growled in one episode, have “either checked their morality or their common sense at the door.”

“They have two problems,” Ellsworth went on. “No. 1: Chattel bondage is wrong, there’s no way around it. No. 2: Under the Constitution, states don’t have rights. States have powers, shared powers with the federal government that the people have given them.”

This is what gives Ellsworth’s show—in which the history buff rides a Harley-Davidson Softtail Deluxe across the country as he recounts the battles, booms and busts of American antiquity—its peculiar charm. It’s the seeming honesty of the message. It’s the apparent sincerity of the messenger.

But that’s also why, today, Ellsworth has a problem. Because when it comes to his own history, he’s been significantly more prone to revisionism.

Next>>>Holes in the Story

Back>>>Read other stories from our August 2013 issue 

Historical Fiction: Holes in the Story

Ellsworth visits Cody, Wyo., named for American showman and bison hunter William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Photo courtesy of BYUtv.

When he was growing up in northern Virginia, Ellsworth said, he used to ride his bike up Henry House Hill, where Gen. Thomas Jackson reputedly earned his nickname.

Stonewall is still up there. Big and bronze and ripped like a superhero, imposingly seated astride his horse, and daring the Union Army to come knock him down—just like the stories say he was in the First Battle of Bull Run.

Turns out, though, there’s some dispute among historians as to where Jackson really got that nickname—and whether it was meant as a compliment or an insult. But like many stories of history that have been repeated so often, it’s gotten tough to tell truth from fiction.

And maybe that’s what Ellsworth thought would happen when he began telling stories about his past.

Bring together a biography strewn across news articles, marketing materials and interviews, and the tales told about Ellsworth are as herculean as that big old statue in Manassas.

Some of it is accurate. Lots of it is exaggerated. Much of it is fallacious.

A bio for a History Channel pilot in which Ellsworth once starred claims he served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps and “fought for his country in the Middle East.” The Marines say that’s absolutely not true.

A post on BYUtv’s Facebook page asserts Ellsworth earned a doctorate from the University of Utah. The U says that didn’t happen.

Ellsworth has claimed on numerous occasions he played linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. Team officials say it’s possible he attended a training camp or served on a practice squad, but they can’t find any record of him.

Ellsworth has also indicated he was a defensive coordinator at the University of Arizona and University of Pennsylvania. That’s not true either. He appears to have had some short stints as an assistant coach at lower division schools including Arizona Western College and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He is also listed as a graduate coaching assistant at the University of Utah in the mid-1980s; one former U. athletic staffer said Ellsworth’s oft-made claim to have been a defensive coordinator there was akin to a graduate teaching assistant claiming to be a professor.

Ellsworth told Salt Lake magazine he earned a teaching credential from Westminster College and taught history at Highland High School before getting fed up with the public education system. Records from those institutions show Ellsworth enrolled but didn’t complete any classes at Westminster, and that he was fired for cause from Highland; the district declined to reveal why it terminated him.

Ellsworth also told the magazine his wife was murdered in front of their children while he was away pursuing his football career. That, unfortunately, is mostly true: Police and media reports from the fall of 1996 show Lisa Ellsworth was stabbed to death while her kids played in an adjacent room. She was not, however, married to Stan Ellsworth at the time—they’d been divorced for more than two years. The presumed killer, who subsequently took his own life, was Lisa Ellsworth’s common-law husband.

Stan Ellsworth has repeatedly spoken of American Ride as a concept he created and unsuccessfully pitched to various production companies for eight years before BYUtv grabbed hold in 2010.

Filmmaker Peter Starr said that’s absolutely not true. Starr first met Ellsworth when the Utah-based actor—whose resume was then limited to a role as a basketball coach in the Disney movie The Luck of the Irish and as an extra in one episode of a USA Network show called Cover Me—auditioned for a role on a TV pilot called History Hogs. The History Channel, which had optioned the pilot, declined to greenlight the series, so Starr worked with Ellsworth to create a similarly themed show, which they called “American Ride.”

Starr, who was battling an illness at the time, said Ellsworth agreed to pitch the show to potential producers, but repeatedly told him that the program had failed to be picked up.

“One day he just stopped calling,” said Starr, who didn’t learn that Ellsworth had gone on to sell the show to BYUtv until he was contacted by Salt Lakemagazine. “It would appear that I was just cut out altogether.”

Starr said he would be discussing the matter further with an attorney.

The terms of Ellsworth’s contract with BYUtv are private, but records from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development show that Utah taxpayers have subsidized American Ride to the tune of $200,000. BYUtv managing director Derek Marquis declined to address any of Ellsworth’s apparent lies, instead referring calls to an East Coast public relations firm.

Confronted with a list of apparent fabrications, Ellsworth said he may have “combined some parts of my history for simplicity.”

Without accepting responsibility for any specific lie, Ellsworth acknowledged that “I should have been much more proactive in protecting the validity of who I am.”

But the grizzly voiced actor flatly denied any involvement in the story of his service in the Marines. He said he had “no idea where anyone would have gotten that from.”

Starr, though, said that’s just one more lie. “He talked about being in the military all the time,” he said. “And the sad thing of all of this is that I don’t think anyone would have cared. In the case of our show, he read for the part and he was dead-on right for it—that’s all we cared about. None of that other stuff mattered.”

Out of the Past


Ellsworth with a film crew at Refugio State Beach in California. Photo courtesy of BYUtv.

Ellsworth is an unquestionably captivating storyteller. And while the claims he has made about his personal history are interesting, it’s his personality that has driven the Emmy-winning show’s success. So why the exaggerations?

“It’s a good question,” Ellsworth said. “I’ve never sat back and evaluated it. I guess this is one of those Dr. Phil moments.”

It’s not clear when all the stories began, though many seem to be revisions of painful personal failures. Three divorces. A futile effort to play in the NFL. An aborted try for a graduate degree. A fruitless attempt to break more deeply into the NCAA coaching ranks. A messy termination from a job teaching history.

“To some degree, I think I haven’t wanted a whole lot of people to really know me,” Ellsworth said. “I suppose I’ve thought that a little bit of distance, however it is achieved, might be more comfortable.”

He stressed the community work he’s done since he began hosting American Ride.

“You know, I’ve been volunteering with the Boy Scouts, I try to visit schools, and I’m really trying to set a good example for people,” he said. “I’m getting better. I’m definitely not perfect. But if I live another 10 years, I think I’ll be all-pro.”

Not everyone thinks Ellsworth is so redeemable, though.

Utah real estate agent Amir Haskic said Ellsworth’s purported football experience was key when he invested $30,000 in a 2009 documentary on the University of Utah’s undefeated season and Sugar Bowl victory. The project was shepherded by Utah video producer Lance Huber, who had earlier worked with Ellsworth on a series of Comcast commercials.

“I honestly didn’t know very much about football, but I thought, here is a guy with all the credentials, a guy who played in the NFL,” Haskic said.

Huber’s wife, Leanna Huber, said her husband also figured Ellsworth’s purported football career would make him perfect to fundraise for the film. When Ellsworth reported back that he’d gotten money from multiple investors, it seemed Huber’s hunch was right.

But when it came time for Ellsworth to transfer the money, Leanna Huber said, the checks bounced. Lance Huber emptied savings and retirement accounts to pay the salaries of his documentary crew.

“Lance was very trusting,” Leanna Huber said. “He always thought Stan was a friend, and it was very painful for him to learn that wasn’t true.”

Huber killed himself on the evening of Sept. 2, 2009. Leanna Huber said Ellsworth’s betrayal wasn’t the only thing haunting her husband, “but it was one more thing, one more terrible thing, that he was carrying.”

To that point, police records show, investigators had considered Huber a key victim and witness in a developing fraud case against Ellsworth. After the suicide investigators removed Huber from the list of victims, having reluctantly concluded they’d lost their main witness to a key part of the case.

Still, on the basis of an apparent theft from two other investors who had kept good records of their dealings with Ellsworth, Salt Lake County prosecutors were able to charge Ellsworth with felony securities fraud.

In 2010 Ellsworth pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and, with as much as a year in jail hanging over him, agreed to pay back the victims in the case at a rate of $800 a month.

“And then nothing happened,” Haskic said.

The court later issued a garnishment order to Disney in hopes of recovering any residuals Ellsworth might receive for his work his work on The Luck of the Irish and High School Musical 3, in which Ellsworth had a small role in 2008.

Haskic said he’d pretty much given up on getting his money back. “I don’t really know why he’s not in jail,” he said.

Indeed, court records show that a warrant was issued for Ellsworth’s arrest after he failed to pay the ordered restitution—and the warrant remained active during much of the time Ellsworth was traveling across the country to film American Ride.

After a three-year delinquency, Ellsworth’s attorney, Fred Metos, finally paid the restitution, court records show. The payment came just weeks after Salt Lake magazine began its investigation into Ellsworth’s past.

With that, the warrant was rescinded and the guilty plea, which had been held in abeyance as is typical in fraud cases in which prosecutors are seeking to recover as much money as possible for victims, was dismissed.

Plans are now reportedly in order to take American Ride overseas for visits to World War I and II battlegrounds where tens of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were killed in the field of battle.

“So pretty much, he’s gotten away with it,” Leanna Huber said. “He never suffered. And in the eyes of so many people, he’s a big hero. But actually, he’s just a big fraud.”

Matthew D. LaPlante is an assistant professor of journalism at Utah State University. He loves history, rides a Harley Davidson Iron 883 and remains a fan of American Ride.

Back>>>Part 1 of Historical Fiction

Back>>>Read other stories in our August 2013 issue

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