Downtown Provo dabbles in the obscure

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Israeli suits, flags, Olympic pins, medieval armor and Electrolux vacuums are among the various goods offered in downtown Provo.

Provo is home to many curious characters and stores that service unique niche markets. Although businesses often struggle downtown, many business owners have learned how to be successful. A look into the lives of several managers of overlooked stores on University Avenue reveals inspiring historical accounts of Provo’s history.

Emanuel Marshall, born in Israel and raised in the United States, is a modern day entrepreneur and successful store owner.  Marshall is the owner of Hollywood Suits, an apparel shop that offers discounted suits from off-brands.

“I have a store in New York and four stores in California,” Marshall said. “My kids came to BYU to study so I moved to Provo. I like Provo because the city is peaceful and quiet.”

After 21 years of successful suit selling in Provo, Marshall will move his shop upstairs and is having a sale of his inventory to accrue money for retirement.

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Continuing North on University Ave., a beacon of fresh air modestly advertises its store’s patented technology. The store, Aerus Electrolux, boasts its vacuums are the American original dating back to 1924. Their slogan, “Your Grandma’s Vacuum Company,” inspires confidence among any inquisitive shopper.

“Our warranties, our door-to-door service, our lifetime maintenance and our patented Heppa filtration system make Electorlux great,” Kaylee Atchley said. “Our philosophy is cleaner air, cleaner life.”

The store’s owner, Dave Churchey, brought Electrolux’s technology to Provo in 1994 and continues to spread the word through door-to-door sales.

The last stop on downtown Provo’s obscure tour was to Flags and Stuff. The store is highly visible because of its array of bright flags and banners that hang proudly along University Ave. But there is more to the shop than meets the eye.

Upon entering the store, visitors are overwhelmed by flags, dolls, BYU apparel, stuffed cougars, medieval armor and many other various souvenirs.

Stan Softley, the store’s owner, came to Provo 10 years ago to capitalize on the Olympics in Utah. The store opened on Sep. 6, 2001 and five days later the World Trade Center was attacked. Flags and Stuff was out of stock of American flags for weeks.

After the booming start to Softley’s store, the Olympics helped sales reach all-time highs.

“People lined up outside the store and around the block,” Softley said. “Everyone was waiting for the UPS trucks to deliver the Olympic pins and flags.”

During the Olympics’ stay in Utah, Softley sold more in a brief six-week period than he did the following three years in Provo.

“You won’t find any place like this,” Softley said. “I can assure you that.”

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