A New Revival

By Beacon Staff

The latest example of Kalispell’s increasingly robust north side commercial district is the addition of Cabela’s, the 42,000 square-foot outdoor retail behemoth peddling gear and apparel at the trade center of Northwest Montana.

The newest tenant opens its doors Nov. 7 and is a harbinger of what’s on the horizon as the Flathead Valley continues to show signs of an accelerating economy.

Kalispell’s commercial development has spiked in recent years after flattening out during the recession. On Kalispell’s north side, 750,000 square-feet worth of retailers and restaurants have been built and more is on the way.

With the Spring Prairie shopping center nearing the end of its third phase of development, interest has continued to grow and at least nine additional parcels will be rolled out in the coming year.

“We have been told that the entire site will be under construction by spring and should be occupied by Christmas,” Kalispell Planning Director Tom Jentz said.

Another round of construction will soon begin on MacKenzie River Pizza, Grill and Pub, a new restaurant concept by the MacKenzie River Pizza franchise, which has a location in south Kalispell and intends to break ground on a lot in the shopping center the first week of November.

The Kroenke Group, a Missouri-based development firm, is leading the project and plans to open its own retail outlet, tentatively called The Shops, which would accommodate smaller stores. The arts and crafts franchise Michaels has expressed interest in four tenant spaces beside MacKenzie River, as has PetSmart.

“We have a commercial trend right now and we are going to see more buildings of this type of quality,” Jentz said. “We are seeing it pick up again and it is very similar to our commercial activity in 2005. It is encouraging for the construction economy.”

Across U.S. Highway 93 at the 46-acre Hutton Ranch Plaza, an entertainment and retail complex that opened in 2008 just as commercial growth went stagnant, local outdoor retail franchise Sportsman Ski Haus is preparing for construction of a 24,000-square foot addition to maximize its retail space, building out to 72,000 square feet.

“That’s an example of a local company that’s expanding,” Jentz said. “That’s the good stuff.”

When the third and northernmost phase of the Spring Prairie building project is complete, the same developer will then turn its attention to Phase 4 near Kidsports Complex, expanding into the 28 acres south of Costco, Jentz said.
The long anticipated opening of Cabela’s is expected to draw substantial fanfare.

Jessica Godderz, marketing manager at the new store, said she expects eager customers to camp outside the store leading up to its Nov. 7 opening at 11 a.m., and busy lines throughout the day. Godderz said a “celebrity guest” will make an appearance and employees will demo gear throughout the day. At a recent preview of the franchise’s new digs, employees donned full camo regalia and put on fly-casting and archery demonstrations, elk bugling and duck calling, and even made samples of wild rice soup in a Jetboil camping stove.

More than 125 full- and part-time as well as seasonal employees, mostly hired from the Flathead Valley, will roam its capacious interior and bring a wealth of outdoor experience.

“All of our outfitters are extremely knowledgeable,” Godderz said.

In the archery department, T. Preston Cannady has been bowhunting since 1969 and wrote the book, “Hunting Mature Whitetail Bucks: A Definitive Road Map for Achieving Your Goals Hunting Monster Whitetail Bucks.”

“I’m passionate about the sport, and I want to share that passion with our customers,” he said.

The Kalispell store is the company’s 50th and joins Billings as the state’s second outpost; a store is slated to open in Missoula in 2014.

The store is designed to reflect the region, and mounts of deer, bighorn sheep, wolves, trout and other critters adorn the walls.

Diane Medler, director of the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the addition of Cabela’s to the city’s north side commercial district makes the shopping area even more of a destination. She also stressed the importance of investing in Kalispell’s historic downtown district and its existing businesses, smaller shops and services.

“The expansion of the north side is great. I remember when you had to go to Missoula to shop at Home Depot,” Medler said. “Obviously it’s still important to drive visitors to our downtown merchants and let both sides complement one another.”