Blackfeet Plan Tribal Grocery Store

By Beacon Staff

GREAT FALLS – The Blackfeet Tribe plans to build a grocery store in Browning to create competition in the grocery market.

The tribe’s business council is reviewing three bids to build the 28,000-square-foot store at a cost of $5 million to $6 million, the Great Falls Tribune reported Tuesday.

Tribal Chairman Willie A. Sharp Jr. said the store will employ 30 to 60 people, have a casino area with 30 to 40 machines and may expand to add an eight-pump fuel center. Groundbreaking is planned next month, and construction could take about seven months.

The council will hire a management team to run the store.

“We want to put a cushion between the store operation and the tribe,” Sharp said.

Sharp says the tribe’s Glacier Family Foods will carry Western Family products. Browning also is home to Teeples IGA, which has been in business for more than 70 years. It is part of a family-owned chain of six stores based in Helena.

“Our company plans to be here for the long haul,” said Teeples co-manager Leon Wikstrom. He declined to comment further.

Tribal business councilman Reis Fisher said residents have been seeking lower-priced groceries in Cut Bank, Conrad, Great Falls and Kalispell. He said a market study showed the community could support two grocery stores.

Council executive secretary T.J. Show said the new store should mean lower prices.

“We feel prices are higher at the other grocery store because they’re the only game in town, a monopoly,” Show said. “The people are the ones who are going to benefit from the stiff competition.”

A percentage of the profits will return to tribal coffers “for helping the tribe,” Fisher said. “It will be a for-profit store.”