Archive for November 9th, 2011
Susan Olp, of the Billings Gazette, tells the story of three brothers expanding on their father’s longtime business on the Crow Indian Reservation and helping their community along the way:
CROW AGENCY – It used to be that when Crow Agency resident D.K. Falls Down wanted to do her grocery shopping, she would drive nearly 15 miles to another town.
“Now we don’t have to drive all the way to Hardin to shop,” she said recently, standing in the newly opened Crow Mercantile. “I like this big store. It’s just what we need around here.”
The business itself isn’t new. Crow Mercantile has been around since the 1920s.
In the 1940s, William Watt, an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe, bought the small store on Makawasha Avenue. Watt also was the town’s postmaster, and the store doubled as the post office and the Watt residence.
He sold the store to his three sons in 1989. It’s managed now by son Ed Watt, but the small 1,600-square-foot space became increasingly inadequate.
“We outgrew that little cracker box and weren’t able to meet people’s needs,” Watt said.
So the brothers decided to build a new 8,000-square-foot energy-efficient store that would offer customers a wider variety of items.
The Crow Mercantile, designed by High Plains Architects in Billings, sits about a block away from the old one. MBA Construction served as the general contractor.
The store opened Oct. 25 with a ribbon cutting. An open house this week will include prize drawings, with a grand prize drawing on Friday, and free food on Tuesday.
On a tour of the store, Watt said the fresh fruit and vegetable section is one of the big draws of the new store.
“Everybody’s been impressed with our produce. We used to have a section this big,” he said, holding his hands about a foot apart. “We have a much bigger deli where we have a lot more things and daily specials.”