ST. GEORGE — A blending of the past with the present – and moving into the future – is taking place on the Bumbleberry Inn property, a portion of which was destroyed in a fire a little over a year ago. The gift shop, bakery, theater and restaurant construction will finish in March 2022.
On Nov. 3, 2020, a fire destroyed Porter’s Smokehouse and Grill, the gift shop and theater in front of the historic Bumbleberry Inn near Zion National Park in Springdale.
Stan Smith, owner of the Bumbleberry Inn and Springdale mayor, told St. George News that at the time of they fire, they were getting ready to celebrate 50 years of having the business in the family.
“My family and I moved down here in 1972,” Smith said. “We had a lot of plans for the 50th anniversary, but none of them were to open a new building.”
Smith said he is excited about the new complex. He will also expand the theater and gift shop.
“The bakery is going to be right out front when you first enter into the building. And we’ve had a theatre for a long time, but it’s been kind of a hidden theater. But now it’s also going to be front and center in the building,” he said.
The theater will be state-of-the-art with a large stage. It will seat 200 people. The theater sound was designed and built by a company out of Las Vegas. There will be concerts, dinner theater, karaoke, open mic and comedy. The business is also considering showing family-friendly second-run movies.
“There’s a lot of things that we can do with that theater. That’s going to be exciting,” Smith said. “We can pull the bleacher back and turn that into a reception hall too.”
The theater will be decorated for Christmas and be available to rent for 2022 holiday parties. Smith said it’s more than a theater; it’s a multipurpose location where anything is possible.
Trisha Clark, Smith’s daughter, is the gift shop manager and said she is also looking forward to the new complex. Clark has many fond memories of family and repeat customers. She grew up at the Bumbleberry Inn and restaurant. She also met her husband while working there.
This Christmas, she has created a Pop-Up Shop in the Bumbleberry Inn’s conference room. It will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 7 p.m. until Dec. 19.
“We know a lot of local people come to our shop for their holiday pajamas, so we’ve opened a pop-up shop,” Clark said. “We have our full selection of pajamas and some fun holiday themes too.”
The new gift shop will be 7,000 square feet and more functional. Clark said they preserved their heritage through the building architecture, materials and things the owners are planning inside.
“We’ve been asking everyone to share pictures of themselves at the building over these past years or stories of what our business has meant to them so that we can incorporate them into a tribute that we have planned,” she said.
One of those memories shared by many revolves around the Bumbleberry pie.
“We will, of course, still have Bumbleberry pie, homemade fudge and ice cream,” Clark said. “We are also expanding our coffee selection and have a few other fun treats we are adding to the menu.”
The original recipe for the pie is locked away in a safe, Clark said, adding that although there had been many requests for the pie, everyone has to wait until the grand re-opening.
As far as what a bumbleberry actually is, according to the Bumbleberry Inn website, the story goes that Grandpa Smith said they are burple and binkel berries that grow on giggle bushes.
“They are called bumbleberries because they giggle when the berries ripen and the bush begins to quake,” the website says, “and at the precise moment that they ripen, they giggle. If you were to eat a berry while it was giggling, you would spend the rest of your life giggling.”
The famous pie recipe began in what was once called Grandma’s Kitchen, which was at the location before the restaurant. Today Bumbleberry pie is known throughout the world by tourists who have stopped on their way to Zion.
The year has been a roller coaster of emotions. The family members were utterly devastated when the fire burned things to the ground. But Clark said there have been some silver linings that have come through the rebuilding.
“We’ve been able to spend a lot more time as a family and have the chance to adjust some things about the space that didn’t work as well as we would have wanted.”
One such area is the gift shop. Rather than multiple levels and small rooms, they have opened up the gift shop space to one large room, with high ceilings and a lot of natural light.
This past year the business has focused on finding and developing new products for the gift shop, but Clark said they will still retain the fun and unique things they offered before that visitors loved. It’s those visitors to the business, both locals and tourists alike, that have kept the family going the past year.
“We felt so much love and support from customers and the community, which really helped us pick up the pieces and focus on the future,” Clark said. “We are so excited about how quickly the building has come together and look forward to sharing the new space with everyone.”
Another change to the building is moving it back off the street about 20 feet to the front entrance. They plan to turn that area into a plaza.
“It can be a gathering spot, or if you need to meet somebody up in Springdale, we’re hoping that would be the place where you would meet,” Smith said.
One thing that won’t change is that the gentlemen will still enjoy sitting outside while their wives are inside shopping, he said. There will be lots of shade for everyone outside.
Smith said he didn’t want to sit around shedding too many tears over the past because there was nothing he could do about losing the historic place.
“That place has been around such a long time and had so many different buildings that we just found so many different layers. It was kind of like an archeological dig,” Smith said. “But now, we were able to put this beautiful building up, and it’s going to serve everybody a whole lot better than the other building did. It’s all brand new.”
Although losing some of the family’s income was difficult for a year, there was a bright side. Many people wrote in and to share stories of them growing up and visiting, whether it was grandma’s kitchen or the steakhouse.
“It’s been really heartwarming. We realized that not only is it the Smith family Bumbleberry, but everybody has ownership into the memories,” Smith said.
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