Category Archives: around town

Fire Evacs

Smoke from the fire, as seen from 2nd Street NE and 36th Avenue.

Smoke from the fire, as seen from 2nd Street NE and 36th Avenue.

Tuesday’s fire hit close to home – literally. For the first time that I can remember, there were some evacuations ordered in Great Falls.

People living on the extreme north side of Skyline neighborhood – along with residents of Countryside Village just a little to the east – were ordered to evacuate at about 6 p.m. last night, as the fire and smoke from a field fire got closer.

The fire, believed to have been sparked by farm equipment, started before noon several miles north of there, along Vinyard Road.

My house is only about six blocks away from the evacuated area, and while I was at work, my wife was watching scores of people driving past our house TOWARD the fire, despite warnings from GFPD, GFFR, and others to *not* go near the area.

The evacuation order was called off a few hours later, and thankfully the fire did not actually reach any of the houses.

And you know those “Safety Check-In” things that Facebook (and Google) sometimes activate after natural disasters or terrorist attacks? Apparently, Facebook automatically created one for “The Wildfire in Great Falls, Montana,” based (as far as I can tell) on the surge of people in the area using trigger words such as “fire” and “evacution.”

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Here’s the article with more details + video of the fire.

Photos of the fire from KRTV friends:

14 Years!

Today marks 14 years since I arrived in Great Falls. I truly can not put into words how happy it makes me. A few months ago, at about 13 years + 8 month, this officially became the place where I have lived longer than anywhere else in my life (although that previous record was set during two periods in one hellish location).

As a military brat who then spent 20 years on active duty, “home” was never a tangible, concrete thing for me – I had a vague understanding of what it meant, and knew that other people had a “home,” but until I arrived in Great Falls, the true nature and feeling of “home” was something I honestly never thought I would feel.

If you know me, or have been checking out my blog over the years, you know how much I love Great Falls, and how I fell in love with this community literally within days of arriving.

I believe the first meal I had in Great Falls was at the Apple Mill Grill (in the mall parking lot); it became Fiesta En Jalisco a few years later. The next evening, I had Howard’s Pizza – ’nuff said.

Thank you so much, Great Falls and Montana, for being the only place that I have ever lived that truly feels like – and is – home.

Here is one of the very first photos I took after arriving in Great Falls (on a then-fancy 640x360px camera phone!).

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One Stop Video

One Stop Video in Great Falls

One Stop Video — just a few blocks away from where I live — is going to close in a few weeks.

I had never been in there until last week, but occasionally when driving by over the last few years, my wife would mention that she wanted to stop in and rent a movie, primarily for nostalgic reasons.

And that’s what a video store is in the year 2016, pretty much, for a lot of people. Roku, Netflix, Hulu Youtube and other online/streaming services make it so easy to watch a movie without ever even getting up from your couch,

And if you actually want a physical DVD, there’s a Redbox vending machine in front of or inside several grocery stores in town.

The last time I went into a video store to actually rent a movie was (IIRC) 2003, when there were not one, not two, but THREE video stores clustered near each other in Great Falls: Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video, and Hastings. If memory serves, it was an X-Men movie, and to be honest, I’m not even sure I ever returned it. If I didn’t – sorry Blockbuster!

All within a few hundred feet of each other near the intersection of 10th Avenue South and 9th Street. You know – the area now known as the “Mattress District:-) .

The Blockbuster spot turned into Salad Creations, and is now zPizza. Hollywood Video is now Cafe Rio. Hastings moved to a new location just down the road.

The good news is that Paul Dockter – the very nice man who owns One Stop Video – told me that it isn’t economics and competition from streaming services driving his decision: he simply is ready to retire and relax a bit, after 28 years of running the business.

He was really grateful for all of his customers over the years – he said that many of them became friends, and he really enjoyed getting to know so many wonderful people.

A lot of people left fond memories of the store on the KRTV Facebook post about it.

If you want to add to your video collection, head on down there soon – he’s selling it all!

He owns the building, and has already lined up a new tenant for the spot. I’m not at liberty (yet) to say what the new business is, but just in case you’re wondering: no, it won’t be a casino.

Here’s my write-up at KRTV.com.

One Stop Video in Great Falls

One Stop Video in Great Falls

“Eye On Great Falls”

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Here’s a look at some of the changes happening in Great Falls, including new/relocating businesses, construction in progress, and other tidbits.

I love the “dynamics” of seeing change in our community. Sometimes it’s tinged with sadness, such as when Goode’s Q & Bayou Grill closed, or a building filled with “memories” is torn down, but it’s exciting to see new things springing up.

The Great Falls offices of the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management will soon move to a new facility near the intersection of 38th Street North and River Drive North. It’s a pretty cool looking building, as far as government offices go.

The former Ryan’s Station restaurant is now home to several small businesses. Texture Salon & Spa recently opened in the west side of the building, and the Pay Station casino is open in the center area. It’s a nice shop – friendly people. The area on the east side of the building will soon be home to a new Amy’s Morning Perk location; it is expected to open on Friday, April 1st, and will feature both an indoor dining area and a drive-thru. I met Amy – she’s very excited about the new spot. She recently closed her location in the mall, but the original “log cabin” spot on Northwest Bypass is still going strong.

The west-side McDonald’s has been demolished, and construction of its replacement is underway.

Still no official word on if/what might go into the space in between TJ Maxx and Staples on the NW side. I’ve heard two persistent rumors: Ulta and Harbor Freight. But still nothing official. Until the rumors started a few months ago, I had never heard of either. But holy cow – some of my friends and co-workers get positively giddy at the mere thought of an Ulta store in Great Falls!

The Townhouse Inn on 10th Avenue South in Great Falls has closed its doors and the process of tearing down the building has begun. New convenience store and casino coming to that location, and I believe a new hotel will be built in between Dahlquist Realty and the Holiday convenience store on the far west end of 10th Avenue South, where a long time ago the Kanga Inn used to be.

The building that once housed TJ’s Lounge and Godfather’s Pizza in Great Falls is being torn down, and construction of the “Cash Out Casino” is underway at the corner of 10th Avenue South and 13th Street.

Crews are continuing work on the Voyageur Apartments building on Division Road, between 16th Avenue NW and Smelter Avenue. The Voyageur Apartments will be a multi-story complex designed for people age 55 and older. 

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen will soon open a new location on the 400 block of Smelter Avenue NE on the lot that once housed Burger Master. I expect that traffic in and around this already-wonky intersection will be fairly intense, initially. Looking forward to it — I like their chicken, but having it so close instead of having to go on base (Malmstrom) will be pretty sweet!

Renovation and construction continues at the site that once was Vans grocery stores at 10th Avenue South and 32nd Street. The space is being turned into a Super 1 Foods grocery store. The project includes improvements to parking, landscaping, building facade, and expansion of the existing structure. I’ve heard lots of good things about Super 1 from folks who have shopped at their other locations.

Ground has been broken for the East End Retail Center near 10th Avenue South and 57th Street. The project will include a second Walmart for Great Falls. No idea yet what other shops will be in this space. I only hope that once it opens, traffic along Smelter in front of the existing Walmart will decrease!

The Sleep Number mattress store recently opened at 10th Avenue South and 9th Street. Just a few hundred feet away from the also recently-opened Mattress Firm. In the Great Falls Mattress District. Where people can buy mattresses.

I’m a little confused that both stores opened so close to each other in such a short amount of time, but other than that – more power to ’em. I’m very happy with the “Durango” bed that I sleep on every night – we bought it about five years ago at Denver Mattress. But when it comes time to buy a new bed, we likely will check out one or both of the new stores (prolly Mattress Firm first, because the manager is a nice guy). I appreciate having choices.

As for the casinos — I just don’t care. I’m fine with casinos, got no problem with them. I figure I spend about…maybe $50 a year or so playing games in a couple of restaurants after a meal. Other than that – I basically don’t think of them at all. But it always baffles me when I see SO MANY people complain about them and rant about there being too many casinos in Great Falls.

Seriously – why so upset? Why not rant about the number of retail locations that sell lottery tickets, too? Why get so worked up about something that not only probably doesn’t directly affect you negatively, but helps Montana retain its “no sales tax” status?

NEW SBX!

At long last — a crack in the armor of the tyranny of 10th Avenue South! A new Starbucks has opened on the northwest side of Great Falls!

OK, it’s not a free-standing Starbucks — but it’s a legit SBX that can serve up my precious 10-shot iced espresso!

It opened yesterday inside the Albertsons on 3rd Street NW.

New SBX location inside Albertsons on 3rd Street NW!

New SBX location inside Albertsons on 3rd Street NW!

Now if I (or you) want to get a SBX beverage and you live or work or just happen to be on the NW side of town — no more driving across town — woohoo!

This brings to SIX the number of SBX locations in town:

Two free-standing stores — the first one at 10th Avenue South and 9th Street (opened in August 2005), the second opened last year at 10th Avenue South and 32nd Street.

One in the Barnes & Noble shop in the Great Falls Marketplace.

One in the Albertsons at 10th Avenue South and 23rd Street.

The new one inside the NW Alberstons.

And although I haven’t seen it, I’ve heard that there is one inside Target.

Yes, I do indeed love my SBX — and the awesome crew members that even surprise me during the holidays :-)

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