On October 9th, 1868, the first full-line department store in the United States is opened in Salt Lake City, Utah. Brigham Young of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) founded the Zion Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) to serve the people of Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC).
The Mormon Church was well-established in SLC by 1868 having arrived there after being persecuted in New York, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. This persecution continued in Utah. One form that the persecution took was price gouging by wholesalers providing goods to the merchants of the area. Young had the idea to form a cooperative to pool their resources and increase their buying power with suppliers. The ZCMI was an immediate success with sales in excess of $1.25 million in its first year.
ZCMI sold everything from lumber to household items to furniture and dry goods, warns and machinery. It sold everything that the pioneers of the area needed to survive and thrive. It eventually began to produce its own products for sale. In 1870, ZCMI opened its own shoe factory referred to as the “Big Boot.” It was soon manufacturing over 83,000 pairs of boots and shoes annually. Following the success of the footwear line, ZCMI began producing a line of work clothing. The Mountaineer overalls being one of its biggest sellers.
ZCMI was also unique in the fact that it was owned by the LDS Church which remained the primary stockholder until the sale of ZCMI to Meier & Frank Company in 1999.