Business in Profile: Sandra Johnson-Thares

Sandra Thares runs Big Sky Development Enterprises Inc. doing business as the O’Haire Inn, Sip n’ Dip Lounge, and Clark and Lewie’s Pub and Grill.

The Great Falls native moved to Spokane in the 5th grade and completed junior high, high school and college in Billings. Thares moved back to Great Falls in 1992.

“I swore I’d never run the family business, but here I am. My siblings were smart enough to leave the state,” she said.

Thares said she stayed because it’s a great place to raise a family and went into business here by the “short straw. I actually worked in the hotel/food and beverage industry to pay my way through college. I decided I loved it better than working at a newspaper for the rest of my life.”

What are the top 3 advantages to operating a business in Great Falls?

“Community support, local government support, success of Great Falls as a community.”

What are the top 3 challenges?

“Labor pool is limited, vagrancy/loitering in downtown area, limited activities for tourists to do in our area.”

If there was one thing you could change to existing regulations to remove barriers to business, what would it be?

“Make it easier for us to get the new arena at the Expo Park built.”

What advice would you give to someone considering starting a business in Great Falls?

“Be prepared to work a lot of it yourself. Have a working capital cushion because it will be five years before you make money and reach out to other business owners in your genre for advice.”