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Arlee Merc offers new venue for area artists

Story and photos by 

Dakota Wharry 

for the Valley Journal

ARLEE- The Merc On 93, one of Arlee’s newest businesses, offers a new venue for area artists to share and sell their work. June 10 marked the first “Second Saturday Market at the Merc,” an open air market with vendors and both indoor and outdoor shopping.

Owner Joni Cainin said the event is a way to bring people together to appreciate art and support local artists. She plans to hold the event monthly every second Saturday throughout the summer.

Next summer, she plans to add a charitable craft show to her schedule of events.

The Merc itself is an eclectic store housing artwork from 20 separate artists as well as furniture and relics from nine different antique dealers. 

“It’s hard to classify the store,” Cainin said. “I just tried to form it into something I wanted and I think people in the area wanted too.”

Everything from antique furniture, to jewelry and even some of Cainin’s own metal work is displayed in the store. 

Randa Hanson has been selling paintings at the Merc since early spring and, like many of the store’s featured artists, knows Cainin personally.

“The store really provides an amazing opportunity for artists like myself who wouldn’t otherwise have a place to display our art,” she said. “It’s helped me reach an audience I wouldn’t have been able to get just on my own.”

Due to a 2009 Highway 93 expansion project that split north and southbound traffic around its downtown area, Arlee has become a drive-through town. According to Cainin, most people don’t even slow down as they zip through Arlee’s business district. But Cainin said she hopes to change that. She wants to give people a reason to slow down, stop and enjoy what the town has to offer, and of course, see what new pieces the Merc has in stock. 

Cainin and her husband opened the store in January 2017 and chose a business name in keeping with the historic building’s original designation as a mercantile. Historic photos from the early 1900s show what the mercantile looked like when it was newly opened.

According to Cainin, the ceiling, elevator and vault are all still original to the building. She said she and her husband have been trying to find other original pieces to restore the building, but many who own original parts are reluctant to let go.

Though the store is still fairly new, a group of regular customers has already been established. In addition to drop in visitors, a small group of collectors come on a regular basis to see if there’s anything new on the shelves, Cainin said.

The Merc On 93 is open until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sundays. The store is closed on Mondays. For more information call 406-493-6765, or visit


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