Tiny Provo store mirrors trend toward downsizing

Lou & Jack’s Tiny Store Co-founder Grace Wilson poses behind the front counter of the store, located in an abandoned stairwell on University Avenue in Provo. (Joe Wilson)

A tiny store in Provo, like tiny homes, is following the trend toward minimalism. Both maximize a small space and focus on living essentials. Lou & Jack’s Tiny Store is located on University Avenue in an abandoned stairwell between Black Sheep Cafe and Rockwell Ice Cream and offers items like medicines, office supplies, drinks and snacks in downtown Provo.

Owner Joe Wilson said he had the idea to start a tiny store for years. Wilson and his wife Grace both attended BYU where they discovered their love for downtown Provo. They each noticed the area’s growth and said they wanted to be a part of it.

Wilson works across the street from the store’s location as a software product manager. Wilson said seeing increased foot traffic and more visitors to the area made him think there was a need for Lou & Jack’s.

Wilson said the building owner liked his idea and offered him the stairwell. According to Wilson, the stairwell had been closed for nearly 20 years and needed to be painted, cleaned and renovated to fit the needs of the store, which officially opened in October.

“It was a little bit of a nightmare when we opened the door and we started working on it in early August,” Wilson said. 

Joe Wilson works on renovating the abandoned stairwell that he and his wife turned into Lou & Jack’s Tiny Store. (Grace Wilson)

Lou & Jack’s has items displayed both inside and outside the stairwell, hanging on the walls and on movable shelves. The space is small, but Wilson said he and his wife Grace have made the most of it.

“It’s kind of like playing Tetris, fitting everything into a certain configuration, but it only takes a minute or two to open and close,” Wilson said.

Visitors can walk up to the door and purchase various beverages, candies and snacks. The store also offers medicines, toys and office supplies.

Tiny shops like Lou & Jack’s are mostly found in larger cities like New York City or San Francisco, Wilson explained.

Wilson said he and his wife believed Provo residents could use the store because of the city’s entertainment, food and office growth.

Lou & Jack’s Tiny Store offers an assortment of treats, medicines and various necessities to those wandering the downtown area. (Grace Wilson)

“Our goal is to serve the downtown community and make it easier to stay downtown and shop downtown. We want to be useful to them and have the things that they need and want,” Wilson said.

Lou & Jack’s opened when other tiny things, like homes, are beginning to gain popularity. With events like the Tiny Homes Showcase, which took place in August at the Orem University Mall, and television shows like “Tiny House Hunters” on HGTV, more people are looking into tiny living.

According to The Tiny Life, a website providing resources for those interesting in living tiny, moving into tiny homes is a growing movement. Due to this growth, places like Yestermorrow Design began offering courses and classes for tiny house building and design.

Brytin Ayers, an Orem resident who has helped build and lived in a tiny house, said she was intrigued by the idea and enrolled in Yestermorrow Design’s two-week course. Ayers explained it allowed her to see what it was really like to live in a tiny house.

“I think people are drawn to tiny things not just because they are cute, but also because they involve finding what is essential,” Ayers said.

To Ayers, living tiny meant living essentially. She said it pushed her to spend more time connecting with people and being outdoors. 

Nate and Tawnee DuBose have been living in a custom-built tiny house in Eagle Mountain, Utah, since October 2017. Nate said his wife appreciates the simplicity of tiny living while he appreciates the economic benefits.

The average single-family house in the western United States is about 2,400 square feet, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Records, but the DuBoses say they are comfortable in their 400-square-foot home. DuBose said they decided to not install a microwave because not having one would force them to cook and buy healthier foods. They don’t own a TV either, instead the couple uses a projector to occasionally watch movies.

Nate and Tawnee DuBose live in their custom-built tiny house in Eagle Mountain, Utah, which they said allows them to spend more time and money on experiences rather than things. (Nate DuBose)

Nate said living in the tiny house allows the couple to spend more of their money focusing on experiences, like traveling.

“We’ve been to 15 countries and all through the U.S. and we don’t have the financial stress of a mortgage,” Nate said.

DuBose said he saw many examples of living minimally and in small spaces in other countries.

“I think as the world gets more interconnected there will be more Americans who want to live that kind of lifestyle,” he said.

The DuBose’s personally designed their tiny house and were able to maximize the space. (Nate DuBose)

The lifestyle may be ideal to Nate, but he said the process of moving into a tiny house can be difficult dealing with things like building codes, city ordinances and bank loans. 

“I just recommend that everybody downsize and focus on experiences rather than stuff,” Nate said. “I think they can still have that mentality of simplifying life, getting rid of things they don’t need and spending more time with family without living in a tiny house.”

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