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Grocery store of a polygamist town on the Arizona-Utah border

Grocery store of a polygamist town on the Arizona-Utah border
Eyes Vision
This is an old photo.

The FLDS church community, which at the time was headed by Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a life sentence plus twenty years in jail, was highly suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, I think I had the only foreign-branded car in this community as I drove through. I stood out. People stared.

This grocery store was one of the busiest spots in town. So I parked in the parking lot and managed to take a few photos without disturbing anyone.

The name of the store was written at its threshold. It wasn’t Bob’s General Store or Pat’s Groceries but rather Cooperative Mercantile Corporation, a very institutional sounding name.

That name sparked a flurry of questions. Who owned this cooperative? Was it owned by all of the members of the community? Was it owned and directed by the church, initially paid for by FLDS member donations? Was this a center where goods were redistributed to all, each according to their need? Was it sort of a Christian socialistic grocery store?

There were bag boys. Cashiers. Shopping carts. It looked like a normal grocery store, where major American food brands were sold. Candy. Junk food. Produce. Ice.

Money was exchanged.

I even see in my photo another building with a franchised/licensed quick service restaurant. That world I know. The franchisor would require a royalty from customer transactions. It would want a specific person, and not a cooperative of community members or even a corporation, to be the licensee to incur liability should something go wrong. Clearly, American capitalism, capitalism that I recognized, was at work here.

But Utopian institutions and their vision were also at work. A dress code of similar long denim dresses. The multiple wives. The store name. All hinted at that.

I am a curious guy. I think that comes hand in hand with being a photographer — wanting to see a new world, or an old world through new eyes. After learning about this community in the news, I wanted to see an American town of polygamists and to take a few photos.

Here is one.

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