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Local holiday shopping, one town at a time

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ST. IGNATIUS – The turkeys haven’t been stuffed but signs of the nearing holidays can be seen in shops, so we’ve started an investigation into what’s available for local shopping. First stop, St. Ignatius. 

At the center of town, Gambles is settled in a brown wood building. It was built in the 1920s, and the original tin ceiling tiles painted white can still be seen. The building was once a bar, bank, drug store, malt shop, clothing store, video store, a bank and some other things. The concrete from the bank vault is still intact. 

But for about 17 years, folks have been able to get a little bit of everything at the store. Stuffed horses, small tractors and dolls are in the toy aisle. Anyone shopping for people who like to fix things will find sockets, wrenches, wood, nails and other tools. Fishing equipment is hung on a side wall next to the four-wheelers and guns. 

Owner Claudia McCready started remodeling during the summer to spruce-up the 90-year-old building. Her son Clay McCready, 31, works at the store, and he is in the process of buying it. 

“I started working for her when I was a kid,” he said. “I’d come in with my mom before school started. I was doing things like checking in freight.” 

He went on to college and changed his major several times with things like dentistry and computers. Nothing fit his interests like working at the store. He enjoys talking to customers, looking for merchandise, and being able to beat the prices of bigger stores.

“I really like it when I can be competitive with prices,” he said. “It strokes my ego to be able to compete with bigger stores, but to do that, I sometimes barely break even. Some things (in the store) are just higher, but considering the cost of gas and the time it takes, how much do people save?” 

Clay says shopping locally has a circular effect.

“The money people put into the local economy comes back to them. It creates a better local economy for everyone,” he said.

Clay might still be cleaning teeth if the economy hadn’t turned around.

“For a few years (business) was getting really bad,” he said. “Another year like the last bad one and we would have been shutting the doors. It’s getting better, slowly.”

Changing the inventory to what people want is important in small business.

“We had to find something else cool that people would drool over,” he said, looking at the four-wheelers in all sizes and almost drooling himself. 

Down the road at the Folkshop, people might find a special gift like a matching canister to replace the one they broke at grandma’s house. The thrift shop features vintage and gently used items including clothes, toys, books, crafts and housewares. Spices and aromatherapy line the front counter. For those not wanting to spend a lot on seasonal decorations, they’ve got those, too. 

“We are a nonprofit,” said employee Jean Callahan, who has seven years of experience. “The money we make goes back into the community. No one owns this. The money goes to employ people (including people with disabilities) and is donated to those in need.”

Another place to shop is a trip back in time. If folks follow the signs traveling a few miles down Airport Road and to the right, the Mission General Store (otherwise known as the Amish store) has different things all the time, ranging from toys to discounted food items. 

The lower priced candy attracts many during the holidays. Meats and cheeses can be gift boxed with a few stacks of crackers. On the back aisle, sewing materials like cloth, thread and needles could keep crafty people busy during the holidays. 

“We are a small, old-fashioned country store,” said Delbert Bontrager, owner. 

Bontrager opened the store 11 years ago. Tradition is important to him — the way back kind of tradition with horses and buggies, although the store does have lights and a credit card machine. Employees are Amish or German Baptist. 

Family is as important to Bontrager as tradition. 

“It’s great to support smaller family owned businesses, whether it’s here or in Polson,” he said. “Small stores are more personal. It’s about making connections and realizing everyone is human and not just passing by.” 

Next week, we’ll find out what is available for holiday shopping in Ronan. 







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