Right from the beginning, the Santa Clara Merc developed a presence on the main street of this small western town. Morphing from a one-room operation to a small, free-standing unit to a thriving mercantile that supplied needed essentials to residents and jobs for many of its youth, the Merc was the heart of Santa Clara. The building's design is simple, reflecting the austere modern influence of the times with little architectural ornamentation, but the operation of the business wove a rich legacy. The story began long before construction took place, and it is best remembered through the writing of Ethel H. McArthur, a woman who personally knew the history.
The early citizens of Santa Clara were tired of having to go by wagon to St. George for their meager supplies, so a group of them got together and decided to open their own store. None of them had any experience running a mercantile business, but they chose John G. Hafen to be the manager?Before long, Grandpa Hafen brought the other stockholders out and with the small capital of ten dollars began to build up a mercantile business of his own. His work took him from home so much that the work in the store was done largely by grandmother.
The store was a small room in their home, but the business continued to increase, so in 1900 a small brick building was erected adjoining their house. The business remained at this location even though grandpa retired in 1917 and sold the business to his son Adolph and two grandchildren. It continued to be a general store, handling all varieties of goods needed by a community. It was the only mercantile ever established in Santa Clara.
In 1928 a new modern building of concrete block and adobe was constructed one block west of the original site. It was a much larger store and also had space for a large garage. The garage was rented to the Stucki & Wittwer Produce Company, and gas pumps were installed outside the store.
The new store was named the Santa Clara Coop and was still owned by the Hafens. In the late 1930's merchandise became extremely difficult to buy, and the inventory dwindled to almost nothing. The store was sold to Adolph's daughter Ethel and husband Horace McArthur. They moved home from California and took over operations on September 1, 1945. The majority of Adolph's business was run on credit, and this tradition became a way of life when dealing with McArthur's Santa Clara Merc.
Horace and Ethel expanded the store and its merchandise. The Merc was known to sell dishes, appliances, horseshoes, nails, dresses, shoes, fabric, toys and the town's first television. In 1960 Horace's son Douglas was made manager, and he and Ethel operated the business until July 1, 1986. The business started by John G. Hafen was then sold, leaving family hands for the first time in more than one hundred years.
The Santa Clara Merc continued to operate for another ten years until the competition of modern supermarkets forced it to close.