Local entrepreneurs continue to find uses for unused commercial spaces

By 
Hunter Herbaugh
Sunday, May 2, 2021
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Several more vacant commercial properties have been purchased, with the new owners planning to open various new businesses. Pictured, (L to R) Briana and Matt Berg, Jamie McMillan and Aarin Ollerman stand in front of their new store on Bell Street. Submitted photo

As previously reported, local entrepreneurs have been taking advantage of the various vacant retail properties around town to start or expand businesses. This wave of revitalization appears to be expanding, as more businesses have been officially unveiled over the past few weeks, bringing even more life back to some of the community’s most prominently empty places.

Some of these business ventures focus on providing something that will fill a need in the community, not just for locals, but for tourists as well.

The recently announced Venture Out will be moving into the building on Bell Street which was originally a JC Penney store and most recently housed the Boys and Girls Club.

Venture Out will provide equipment, rentals and experiences for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. The new business is a partnership between several young professionals; Briana and Matt Berg, Aarin Ollerman and Jamie McMillan.

McMillan explained that for all those involved, Venture Out is a passion project, as they aim to provide experiences that will hopefully convince those visiting the area to stay just a little bit longer. With the number of visitors to Makoshika State Park breaking records last season, she added that encouraged them even more to launch this effort.

“We feel like if we could provide them a reason to spend one more day in Glendive, that could potentially be a huge boost to everybody,” she said.

McMillan noted that she and the other partners are still in the early stages of planning, but have some big plans to boost outdoor recreation in the area. These include forming partnerships with similarly focused groups, like Friends of Makoshika.

Squad Sports is also in the planning stages of expanding in a way to cater to tourists as well. According to co-owner Lara Crighton, she and the other owners are not ready to reveal too much at this time. What she could reveal however is that they are planning on offering a selection of “personalized gifts,” something that they’re hopeful will synergize well with Venture Out’s mission of attracting tourists to stay longer.

“What we’re focusing on right now is really more than a souvenir shop, it’s more about personalized gifts. You know, a puzzle with your granddaughter’s face on it or a pair of socks with your boyfriend’s face on it, those kinds of things we can do in house,” Crighton said.

To accommodate their new offerings, Crighton said they will be expanding into the location on Valentine Street most recently occupied by Noble Drilling, which is directly behind the Squad Sports store.

Remodeling occuring at the former F&G Pharmacy location will in part accomodate FlashBack – a nostalgia fueled one-stop shop for things such as video games, DVD’s, records and more. The shop has been operated online by owner Darby Titus for a little while now but he is preparing to open his brick and mortar shop on Merrill Avenue. Titus is expecting to be open this summer.

He explained that he got the idea for his store from experiences growing up in town, as the options for buying various forms of entertainment media became slim over the years.

“Growing up as a kid, I really would have liked if we had a place where you could go to grab a physical record or a physical game, or just a physical book. Those are the big three of stores that I think need to be here,” he said. “I’ve had this in the back of my mind for years but never really had a building for it and I’ve had an online presence since the beginning of March, just to test the waters, and now I’ve got a building for it.”

While all of these business owners are excited to be offering things that they believe will fill a need in the community, they are also happy to be taking part in a moment in the community’s history where many entrepreneurs are revitalizing the downtown shopping district. As more businesses open, they are hopeful it will draw more people to the downtown area and spur more investment into Glendive.

“I think every one of us would tell you this is a passion project for us. It’s a passion project because we love Glendive and we love the outdoors and we want to get it to a point where everyone can share that and be comfortable with it and be proud of it, but also it’s an investment back into Glendive. We also see other people making the investment and doing these things and it’s contagious and I think every door that opens only drives traffic in every other door,” McMillan said.

This wave of people repurposing available spaces isn’t over just yet either. On April 15, public notice went out announcing a requested liquor license transfer for the former Maddhatters, signalling an intention to re-purpose that building as well. At this time, however, the potential new owners are not ready to provide any details.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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