When Sliters Lumber and Building opened in 1933, Everit L. Sliter and his wife, Grata, strived to offer the growing community of Somers a friendly environment to supply their neighbors with merchandise in the small town south of Kalispell on Flathead Lake.
Although Sliters started as the People’s Mercantile in its early days, it was re-named in the 1950s after the family’s namesake and it remains a staple in the community 90 years later, now serving Lakeside and Bigfork in addition to its original hub in Somers.
The business remains in the family today and is now operated by Andrew Sliter, who is the company’s president, and Andrea Sliter Gouge, the chief financial officer.
To celebrate its 90th year, Sliters will host a First Responders Chili Cook Off at Wrangler Springs Ranch on Saturday, June 24 in Bigfork to support local fire departments. The family friendly event is $30 for adults and free for children. The fundraiser will support 11 organizations, including Friends of Bigfork Fire, Lakeside QRU, Ferndale Volunteer Fire Department and more.
First responders will compete in the chili cookoff and there will be emergency vehicles on-site for viewing, games and face painting will be provided, and the pond will be stocked with fish for kids under 14 to fish.
“We have always supported our first responders,” Andrea said.
Additionally, Sliters has dedicated this year to contribute to 90 charitable organizations and the company has launched an anniversary nonprofit grant aimed at improving the quality of life in local communities.
“The funding amounts may vary quite widely,” Gouge said. “We contribute to things like silent auctions for different charities, but we can also contribute on a more substantial level on initiatives that resonate with our board and our team.”
The Sliters family has historically supported a variety of organizations in the last several decades, including large nonprofits, like the Flathead Land Trust, and small groups, such as the Bigfork Booster Club, The Nurturing Center and the Flathead Lakers.
In 2021, the Sliter family contributed to the conservation and public access of the north shore of Flathead Lake, which has recently been established with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) as Somers Beach State Park.
For decades, access to the lakefront property has been allowed through a handshake agreement with the Sliter family, who owned a half-mile of shoreline.
Montana FWP finalized the development plans for the 106-acre state park earlier this year, which will entail building day-use amenities like trails, picnic areas and a boat launch. The land also serves as a waterfowl habitat.
The Sliters plan to continue serving the community while honoring the family’s legacy, which dates back to the 1880s when Everit L. Sliter arrived in Montana from Michigan. After a stint in Helena, Sliter visited the north end of Flathead Lake on a hunting and fishing trip and purchased 139 acres for $1,380 shortly after.
In 1902, Sliter purchased property in what is now Bigfork, founding the town shortly after building a hotel and general store and establishing a post office.
After marrying Lizzie Osborn and expanding his real estate enterprise, Sliter had three girls and one boy who they named Everit L. Sliter II and eventually founded the People’s Mercantile in 1923, which later became Sliters Lumber and Building.
Everit Jr. and his wife Margaret Wanda Agather had three boys, who continued to run the Somers mercantile. Joe teamed up with his dad to run the store, Everit III pursued a career in accounting and launched Jordahl and Sliters, and Tom launched a career in technology.
The general store moved from its original location in the 1970s to a more central location in Somers, where it remains today. A Bigfork location was added shortly after.
In the late 1980s, Tom took over the business following his father’s and brother Joe’s deaths, introducing computer systems to the company, building an indoor lumber distribution facility in Somers, and adding a Lakeside location in the early 2000s. Now, his son Andrew is president of the company, and his sister Andrea joined the team in 2017 after Tom’s death.
“We are humbled and proud to continue the legacy started by my grandparents, uncle, father and our outstanding team,” Andrew said. “Our commitment to community is the cornerstone of the legacy of our business.”
The First Responders Chili Cook Off will be at the Wrangler Springs Ranch at 6850 MT Highway 35 in Bigfork from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Nonprofits can apply for a grant at www.sliters.com/grant-application.
For more information about Sliters Lumber & Building Supply, visit www.sliters.com.
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