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NEW `BRAID' WILL WEAVE BOOKS WITH OTHER BEAUTY

"If we were the kind of people who believe when something doesn't flow it's the wrong thing to do, we would have stopped building this store a dozen times," says Jackie Pratt, proprietor of the new Golden Braid bookstore, 151 S. 500 East.

"But now we're here," she says. "And I'm literally banking on the fact I know what's important to people."The old Braid, located on 300 South, was a floating garden of scents, icons and mystical volumes on everything from health to wealth. Pratt launched the store after a meditative retreat to California. Once in Utah, she walked into the University of Utah bookstore and picked up the first book she saw. It was called "How to Start a Book Selling Business."

So that's what she did.

Golden Braid patrons would be disappointed if the store had started any other way.

But the new Braid - an airy, open store with the feel of a Santa Fe villa, has required a little more practical thinking. Max Smith and Associates designed the building - making good use of old-growth timber, skylights, stone, tile and wood. Pratt's partner, Stephen Paul, was a big champion of the Oasis Cafe, a seafood and vegetable fine-dining eatery linked to the store that nourishes the body amid soul-nourishing books.

"We hoped to build a place where people could get away from the bustle and feel some peace," says Pratt. "Beauty was the bottom line for us."

Like many independent booksellers, Pratt and company trade heavily on merchandise besides books these days, but the volumes of supernatural and natural philosophy are still the backbone of the store.

Currently, says Pratt, there seems to be fresh interest in Buddhism. Christian mysticism is big, as are books on diet and healing. Salt Lakers also seem to be finding new interest in parenting books and children's books with a "New Age" slant.

Pratt, who was New Age before the term even existed, hates the label, however.

"It says nothing," she says.

Still, the store does cater to people who use and apply the term. And in the future she hopes to slate readings and signings by popular metaphysical authors, get more artwork and artifacts to sell, and - with a little luck - turn the Oasis into a trendy nightspot (it's open until midnight)."

"And if we go bankrupt," says Pratt philosophically, "what's the worse thing that can happen? We end up living on a beach. Is that so bad?"

She smiles and looks around the store.

"I think of all this as a canvas," she says, "and the experiences people have here are the colors that create the painting."

Spoken like a true mystic - like a woman who would walk into a bookstore, pick up a volume and change the course of her life.