Virgin Valley Heritage Museum features vintage store display owned by native Utahn

Image provided by Virgin Valley Heritage Museum, St. George News

MESQUITE, Nev. — Before there was Walmart, there was J.L. Bowler’s, a store owned and operated by a Utahn who moved to Mesquite in the mid-1940s. The Virgin Valley Heritage Museum’s new display pays homage to this early department store.

Joseph LeGrand “J.L.” Bowler was born in Gunlock, Utah, in 1909. Bowler graduated from Dixie High School and later attended Dixie College. In 1940, he married LaBerta “Bert” Woodbury at the St. George Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In June 1946, Bowler contracted with Howard Burgess of St. George to build a store in Mesquite, according to a press release from the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum.

In Bowler’s own words:

On November 15, we moved to Mesquite where I busied myself helping to complete the store, and Bert spent long hours cleaning and orienting herself in a old home recently remodeled, purchased from Dr. Gilbert.

On Dec. 23, 1946, J.L. Bowler’s Department Store had their grand opening.

Customers nearly broke our doors in before we opened at 9:00 a.m. Six of us were kept busy throughout the day, and our receipts were in excess of $1,000. (As much as we would receive in a month at our old store in Gunlock, Utah.) Our shelves were soon depleted.

Bowler would operate the store for another 40 years, during which the successful business was remodeled and enlarged. He passed away Oct. 4, 2004, in Mesquite.

The display will be up through September. For more information about this event and the museum, call 702-346-5705, find them on Facebook or stop by the museum at 35 W. Mesquite Blvd. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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