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Murray Journal

A nod to the past: Townhouse complex, Mercantile Towns, to be built on old RC Willey property

Feb 09, 2024 02:07PM ● By Ella Joy Olsen

Site development is underway in late December on the old RC Willey site on the northwest corner of 900 East and 6600 South. (Ella Joy Olsen/City Journals)

The RC Willey furniture store stood on the corner of 900 East and Winchester Street (6600 South) for over 50 years. It opened in 1969 and was the second location for the growing furniture retailer, serving the growing suburb communities at the south end of the valley. The location closed in January 2021, as the building needed upgrades that were not financially feasible.

Old RC Willey holds nostalgia for many Murray residents for one particular reason: hotdogs. 

In the early 1980s, RC Willey began giving out free hotdogs to increase traffic. It worked. During the hotdog heyday, RC Willey gave away up to 600,000 dogs and buns per year. 

“If we were spending Saturday with Grandma, you could count on a trip through the bank drive-thru in her old sky-blue Plymouth and a hot dog lunch at RC Willey,” Draper resident Amy Marty said about her grandma and former Murray resident, Helen Reese. “We loved it!”

But something fresh is happening on the 9.1-acre site, and it’s not hot dogs. The old building is demolished and site work is underway for a development of 109 townhomes called Mercantile Towns, a nod to the site’s former occupant. 

Construction is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2024 and will be completed in a phased rollout. The developer is the Boyer Company, one of the largest development firms in the Western United States with projects ranging from The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake, to The District in South Jordan, to Redstone in Park City.

The townhomes will be offered for individual purchase, as Murray City and residents of Murray have encouraged developments with an opportunity for home ownership. They are not yet available for sale, but plans indicate the units will be attached, not-stacked; two-story dwellings with a basement, two to three bedrooms, and each will include a two-car garage. The site will include a pool and clubhouse for residents. 

Dwellings will likely be offered in the $600,000 range, depending on the market, per Susan Nixon, Senior Planner for Murray City Community Development.

A little RC Willey history (per their website)…

Back in 1932, Rufus Call Willey began selling appliances door-to-door out of the back of his red pickup truck. To guarantee customer satisfaction, RC (as he was known to friends) would lend out a refrigerator (or another appliance) for a week and promise to take it back free of charge if they didn’t want it. He also established a financing system for local farmers, offering to accept 1/3 payment at the end of each of the next three harvests.

In 1950, due to increased demand, RC built a 20’ x 30’ cinder block building next to his home in Syracuse, Utah. Two years later, Willey’s son-in-law Bill Child began working at the store part time. 

On the day his son-in-law graduated from college (with a teaching contract in hand), Willey asked him to take care of the store while he headed to California, “to rest and get rid of some ulcers.”

Willey’s illness turned out to be cancer. He died in September 1954 without ever returning to the store. After Child took over, he decided to add furniture to the RC Willey appliance offerings, and soon the little building was overstuffed. Eventually, RC Willey eventually opened six locations, all across Utah.

In 1995, RC Willey Home Furnishings was sold to Berkshire Hathaway in a deal with Warren Buffett. Currently, RC Willey has four locations in Utah and also operates in Nevada, Idaho and California. λ