Gardner Village reflects on legacy of founder Nancy LongFeb 06, 2023 02:52PM ● By Isa Alcaraz
Archibald's Restaurant was built by pioneer Archibald Gardner. (Photo courtesy Angie Gerdes)
Gardner Village founder Nancy Long passed away last November due to complications from a stroke, after battling muscular dystrophy for many years. Friends, family and locals who love Gardner Village gathered for an open-door celebration of life held at the Gathering Place on Jan. 15.
Gardner Village has been around for close to 42 years, its 43rd birthday coming up in May of this year. The flour mill, built in 1853 and a staple of Gardner Village, was purchased by Nancy Long in 1979. Long was born in Massachusetts and moved to Utah as a young girl. Early friends and family of Long described her as “always an entrepreneur,” even since childhood.
Fast forward to 1979, upon purchase of the flour mill, Long began renovations and eventually started Country Furniture and Gifts, a furniture store in the mill and the first shop ever featured at Gardner Village. Archibald’s Restaurant emerged in the same flour mill in 1990. Gardner Village acts as a true Utah historic hub. Many old builds were moved onto the property over time, then renovated and turned into local businesses.
Long’s daughter, Angie Gerdes, who is also Gardner Village’s president and owner, reflected on the importance of the history and soul of the place.
“Our vision is to preserve our history while creating Utah’s favorite shopping and dining experience,” she said. “The mission is to provide people an escape from the ordinary, a chance to step back in time and experience raving fan service and exceptional quality.”
But none of it could have happened without Long, who was there from the very beginning.
“She started everything on a shoestring,” Gerdes said about her mother. “Very few people could have envisioned what she did. She worked tirelessly and with great passion to make this place what it has become.”
Gardner Village has not only allowed for the past to live on in the present, it has also created a refreshing culture amongst employees that is not often seen in other businesses today. The place attracts creatives who are looking for something different, a nice change of pace from the madness of the modern day.
“The people are wonderful. We attract customers and employees who are creative and want something unusual,” Gerdes said. “It is a cozy and charming area.”
And it all drew from its founder. Long set the example for how the business should be run, from attitude to work ethic, traces of her legacy are rampant at Gardner Village today. Gerdes described her mother as “a character” who always thought outside the box and strived to prove doubters wrong.
“She made a huge impact on other people’s lives through what she created,” Gerdes said. “I am grateful for the life it has helped me to enjoy.”
While Gardner Village remains one of Utah’s most popular historic destinations, all businesses aren’t without their challenges.
Gerdes explained that online shopping, big box and chain stores were some of their closest competitors at times. However, the thing that sets Gardner Village apart is its uniqueness. They’ve even introduced new entertainment like Mystique Dining, a dinner and show experience, magic shows, escape rooms and a variety of classes including knitting and painting. These are things you aren’t getting from just any business down the road.
“Our focus on specialty stores with unique offerings has helped us a lot,” Gerdes said.
Long was active in the business until Gerdes and her brother, Joe, purchased it in 2000.
Gardner Village features over two dozen stores and boutiques including CF Home and Furniture Design and Chocolate Covered Wagon. There are also a few dining options, a spa, photo studio and a farm.
The flour mill is featured on the National Register of Historic Places.