Federal Avenue a peaceful (and
homegrown) oasis in downtown Logan
By Benjamin Wood
March 5, 2009 | Logan, Utah, home of Utah State University,
is a college town. The community proudly supports the
institution of higher learning with USU banners hanging
from light poles and displayed in storefront windows.
It comes as no surprise then to see along Main Street
and around town the brighter lights of national chains
and commercial staples beckoning the young collegiates
with their welcoming warmth and familiarity; yet Logan
maintains its heritage and atmosphere with a number
of locally owned and operated enterprises.
At the heart of downtown Logan the locals rule, and
nowhere more so then on Federal Avenue.
At the mouth of Federal Avenue, halfway between First
and Second North, two buildings serve to block out sound
and sight of the heavily congested Main Street, creating
a veritable nook in the center of the city. Less than
a dozen shops and eateries make up the small conglomerate
of locally owned businesses.
Moving east down the avenue finds Earthly Awakenings,
which sells handcrafted jewelry and ornaments, the appropriately
named On The Avenue: Handcrafted Gifts of Distinction,
Mulligans Social Club, The Jerry W. Fuhriman Studio/Gallery,
Why Sound, a recording studio/music venue, The Italian
Place, Café Ibis, and a law office. The street tapers
off into an open parking lot framed by lifeless back-door
facades and ends at the next street running parallel
to Main. Continuing east an obscured hill raises up
to the Logan LDS Temple, perched like a sentinel overlooking
Cars sit stationed along the avenue's southern edge
at 45 degree angles, and patrons peruse the commercial
offerings on foot, bundled up from the cold and conversing
in low, pleasant tones. The air is still, and only the
smallest din of city action can be heard through the
corridor of structures.
"It's a lot more peaceful," said Andrew Chanson, "we
don't have cars whizzing by, people yelling and making
Chanson is an employee at The Italian Place, a local
eatery whose sandwiches received Utah's "Best of the
Beehive" award in 2008. The diner has been in business
for 37 years, always in its same location on Federal.
The space is open, separated from the kitchen in one
corner by a low counter allowing the customer to observe
and converse with the staff.
If you ask, Chanson will tell you about his regulars.
There's Mel who Chanson describes as extremely old and
works nearby, they make him the same sandwich every
day and if he doesn't come by, Chanson or one of the
other workers will take it to him. Or there's Joe, he
tends to get his sandwich, find his table and read,
or he'll pass the time by shooting the breeze with the
diner's owner John. According to Chanson, John knows
everybody, if not by name then by face, and he knows
What the stores on Federal Avenue lack in visibility,
they make up for in customer loyalty. Any one of the
handful of businesses on the Avenue could likely give
comparable descriptions of their clienteles.
"We definitely have a following," said Michelle Nielson,
who manages the nearby Café Ibis.
The Café is well rooted in the Logan community. Nieslon
said that they've been serving Loganites for over 30
years. They select from local, organic produce for their
lunch items, roast their own coffee brews at a plant
in town, showcase local musicians every Friday and Sunday,
sponsor monthly art exhibits and donate two percent
of their earnings to non-profit organizations around
Café Ibis, compared to The Italian Place, is a much
more intimate space. Rock music plays softly overhead,
barely audible in competition with the buzz of a dozen
different conversations. The space seems to glow with
a series of track lights pointed towards the walls to
illuminate the art on display. A strong-scented blend
of different coffees and soups wafts throughout and
seems to seep out from every cranny.
The coffee brewed at Ibis is known throughout the
area and abroad for its quality. According to the café's
website, www.cafeibis.com, Ibis coffee is QAI certified
organic, Fair Trade certified and Smithsonian Shade
Grown Certified. On the menu are a number of traditional
sounding blends like Espresso, French Roast and Vienna
Roast; as well as some more unique options like Highlander
Grogg, Ethiopian Arabian Night, Ethiopian Moka Harrar
Horse, and a locally-named Logan Canyon Blend. The website
also provides customers with on-line purchasing, and
flavor descriptions, like this one of Highlander Grogg.
"A sophisticated liquor flavored on our light roast
coffee, reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, that
does well all year long. Though difficult to describe,
it has become a consistent."
Employees of the café seem almost sentimental as they
talk about their avenue, referring to it with pet names
such as "The Fed," or "FedAv." The menu includes a number
of herbal concoctions, and caters to a wide range of
tastes; the soup of the day, for example is a Vegan
"We're very environmentally friendly," Nielson said,
"A lot of our customers tend to walk or ride bikes,
and more than half of our staff don't own vehicles."
This environmental focus is not particular to only
the café, nearby at Earthly Awakenings a sign in the
window reads "Hippies, use back door." Even while the
core client base remains strong, many of the avenue's
employees agreed that while patronage is diverse, there
is a noticeable absence of the greater university student
community. Derek Andersen, who works at On The Avenue,
said that the majority of customers tend to come from
the more permanent adult and family population of Logan.
Students seem to pass by, unaware of the avenue in its
"It's kind of off the path," said Andersen. "Either
you know someone who knows about it, or you go wandering
to find it."
Find it people do. Nielson said she doesn't feel at
all challenged by the low visibility location, saying
that her customers use word of mouth to bring in fresh
faces. She admits, though, that on occasion she has
to explain to people how to find the café.
"When people get into town, we get calls asking, 'Where
is Federal Avenue?'" Neilson commented; and added that
unlike some of the larger chains, customers of the avenue
are able to get to know the staff and owners on a more
"It's what brings them back, it's locally owned and
they want to support local business," Andersen agreed.
While the majority of Utah State University students
may not frequent, or even be aware of, the stores on
Federal Avenue, the businesses in the small metropolitan
oasis stand the test of time. Some entities on the avenue
are recent endeavors, but most, like Café Ibis and The
Italian Place, count their ages in decades. More and
more businesses on the high velocity roads come and
go, while Federal Avenue remains relatively unchanged.
The different stores seem to have a more symbiotic
relationship than most. The Italian Place serves Ibis
coffee, and Chanson said that the two stores will help
each other out when necessary. The different stores
commonly participate in community events, such as the
Logan Gallery Art Walk, and yearly downtown trick-or-treating
"If we need anything, we just run over and ask," Chanson
said. "It's really friendly, there's less competition."
Whether you find it through the urging of a streetwise
friend or by some accidental arrival, "The Fed" is a
rare gem in the already picturesque Cache Valley. With
everything from music, to food, to priceless art, the
avenue has something for everyone, as long as they know
where to look.