Community thanks: Local business owners share stories of goodness from 2020

This year has been one for the books for sure.

It’s been tough and it felt like one crisis after another.

Honestly, it would be easy to write this year off as a complete dumpster fire and say good riddance.

But, there have also been some truly wonderful moments and we asked local business owners to share some of those moments that struck them during 2020. The responses of all of those who responded are below, in their own words.

Here at The Electric, I’ve seen it too. A news company is a bit different than retail or food and drink, but when a community rallies to support a journalist, it tells me a lot about this town and why I’m lucky to have adopted it as my home.

Readership, contributions and advertising all increased this year. The web hits on the site for 2020 have come very close to doubling over all of 2019. The letters, emails, Facebook messages, calls and texts of support for local news have been nothing short of heartwarming for this sometimes grumpy, and always exhausted, reporter. 

Great Falls, I’m grateful to you and for you.

Here’s to a better 2021, may it be a year when we remember the lessons of 2020 and how much good a community can do for itself.

Now, from local business owners, in their own words:

Tara Beam, Roadhouse Diner

I felt a wave of shock, sadness, anger and depression around March 2020. Once I moved past those feelings and got back to my “Tara” self, Jason and I discussed collaboration’s with other businesses. This is an excellent way to build relationships with other businesses. 2020 really proved we are in this together!

We have customers who come back on a weekly or biweekly timeframe to offer support. Some bring their own to go back to save us on ours as well a drink carrier. Curbside was something we had never done before and it is quite entertaining trying to find some vehicles. At one point there were four same brand and color! Sometimes we felt we needed roller skates but knew in the end it would only slow us down haha. We catered ADT and this is when we created our Burger Bar which we used to cater a small wedding. Continued gratitude to everyone for supporting in ALL ways!

Heather Kunz, Broadwater Brewing Coffee Company 

We have this couple who started coming before the pandemic. When the café was still new and the seating area was open, they would come in and visit and order from us. We were just really starting to get to know them when quarantine went into full swing. He’s a photographer, she’s – well – an angel, possibly. As we transitioned to drive-through only and opened our online ordering, we realized that we had an order from them every single day. For months. On Saturdays when I would run outside to take orders, I had a little more time to visit with them in the line than I ever could at the window. I always thanked them for coming and each time they would thank me for being open and offer encouraging words and gratitude. It wasn’t long before we were getting two orders a day from them, and I became very aware that they were doing it, not as much because they were coffee lovers (very often ordering just hot chocolate or lemonade), as much as they were ordering simply to support us. The orders would roll in daily and each day, one distinct order with the following note: two drinks, no straws, blue-green Escape. I have tears as I write this.

Gratitude doesn’t quite sum up the emotion I feel in explaining something like that. Blessed maybe – to have very special employees who support me and create loyal, repeat customers- and overwhelmed by the love we have received from our customers. That couple is just one beautiful example of an incredibly kind community that has lifted us up through this unimaginably challenging year.

I have others. But that’s the one that really got me this year. How do you even thank people for a gift like that? It’s all really a feeling they give to you and you can’t put a price or a definition on it. It’s just something warm and kind and good. I feel like I’ve been edgy and nervous and a bit grumpy this whole year. Stopping and describing the kindness people give you is a pretty great way to check yourself about where your head is.

Kaleena Carr, Cakes by Carr

My customers have been simply AMAZING!! Regulars checked in to make sure I was staying busy and when I actually had some free time (because of COVID cancel/reschedules) I was able to offer last minute specials which sold out in under 30 minutes EVERY time!

During the initial shutdown (when supplies/ingredients were hard to come by), Enbär (Michael Hallahan) was kind enough to order me butter, flour, sugar, sanitizer, and gloves when they were no where to be found (or being sold in super limited quantities)!! One quick message to him and I had everything I needed for a month! I was very thankful to him for keeping me operating instead of running all over town HOPING to find things!! 

Millie Whalen, Cassiopeia Books

I honestly started to believe it was a Great Falls conspiracy to see who could make me cry when people would thank me for continuing the store—Thank me? For doing something that makes me so happy? As we got closer to Christmas Eve it became ever harder not to burst into tears when someone would say it. I’d like to thank the Great Falls community for all of the support and encouragement I have been given this year and I hope in 2021 to get back to the author readings and other events that have made Cassiopeia Books such a wonderful spot. 

Candice English, The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers

I would love to give a little shout out to our active lil’ knitting group. They have been coming in Wednesday nights for most two years now. Whatever the scenario, they are always so go with the flow. In the old space they put up with being surrounded some weeks in shipping boxes or hot temps and no AC. When we moved everyone was a little hesitant but they have embraced the changes with open hearts. They take care of each other when someone is down or needs an extra hand. The best part is they make our community even better by welcoming anyone who comes to knit or by greeting every single person who walks in the door. 

Erin Townsend, Hempl’s Bakery

As people may have noticed, there was a wonderful Secret Santa in the Great Falls community this season.

Hempl’s Bakery was delighted to be contacted by #greatfallssecretsanta with an opportunity to partner and commit #randomactsofchristmas in our community.

As a product of the Great Falls Public School System, and a business that provides food, the school pantries came to mind quickly. There is just so much need.

Using the power of social media, we asked customers, friends and family to help us use some of our Secret Santa dollars to grow a larger donation to the pantries. In the end, $1,200 was given to Great Falls Public Schools Foundation to help fill the pantries with the most need.

The bonus of the donation was a gift certificate to Hempl’s.

And, in true Great Falls fashion, may folks asked that they not receive the gift certificate, but rather that we pay that forward.

Using those wonderful gifts as well as some additional Secret Santa bucks, we’re giving Benefis Foundation a $200 gift certificate to use for treats for our priceless front line healthcare workers. We are fortunate to have them taking care of so many of our customers, friends, neighbors and family.

Finally, we had to be a little random, too. Tis the season, they say! If you were in the bakery early enough, ‘Santa’ was standing by and picked up a number of tabs for folks that came in for sweets to enjoy and share. The smiles and surprises were wonderful to enjoy.

Hempl’s opened in 1967 and our family has been baking up scratch goodies since 1981. We consider ourselves fortunate and enjoy the opportunity to give back.

Mike Cross, Republic Services

The small business community and community at large is incredible. In my brief time in the city people like Heather from Broadwater, Heidi and Thad from Electric City, Tara at the Roadhouse and many others in the community truly make it an amazing and special city. Things like the GF Take Down and Take Out page and other engagement really showed what an amazing community this is.