Business Bites: Karhu Koski Distillery coming; Popeyes is not opening downtown; Little Shell health clinic; Electric City Coffee birthday; valentines for foster kids; The Refinery opens; office space; hotel closures; Christopher & Banks, Marketplace GameStop closing

Karhu Koski Distillery

A new distillery is coming to the region. 

Joel Almeida is planning to build Karhu Koski Distillery just over the Cascade County border on Gordon Road in Teton County.

The land has been in his family since 1910 when his great-grandfather was awarded the 160 acres to homestead after immigrating to the U.S. from Finland a few years earlier.

The distillery’s name translates to “bear rapids” or bear falls,” Almeida said, and is the name of the farm that his great-grandfather left behind in Finland.

Almeida said the land has been passed down and now he and his brother are taking ownership of it.

He lives in California currently, but is moving to Great Falls and has family history here.

His mother was raised here, attended Central Catholic High School. She and Almeida’s uncle graduated from Great Falls High School. His father was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base and his parents met at Howard’s Pizza.

Almeida said that he went to school in California but he and his brother spent every summer in Great Falls.

“Great Falls is a second home to me,” he said. “I have a lot of fondness and a lot of love for Great Falls and the area.”

The idea was born out of a quiet COVID-19 quarantine night, thinking about wanting to get out of California, his enjoyment of spirits and as he was reading the back of alcohol bottles, thought, “if they can do it why can’t I?”

Almeida said he’s been working with officials in Teton County and is planning to break ground this summer with the first product in the bottle starting with vodka by fall 2022 and eventually a tasting room in Great Falls.

Street Burgers

Street Burgers is coming to the former Noodle Express space on 10th Ave. S., according to Macek Companies, Inc., the property manager.

The restaurant, operated by the same partners as Tracy’s Family Restaurant, are planning to renovate the space and offer “quick service dine-in, pick-up, and to-go restaurant that will serve an array of sliders, local brews, shakes, salads and fries,” according to Macek.

Street Burgers will be locally owned by Electric City Hospitality, which is a partnership of longtime friends, John and Becki Pendretti Barnes and Neal and Melissa DuBois.

“We are so thankful for all the community support and patronage of our first restaurant, the renovation and revival of Tracy’s Family Diner in the heart of Great Falls. Street Burgers is an entirely new concept which will offer a few of the classics and some unique choices which will satisfy those who are looking for something new and different. We can hardly wait to bring this new concept to life with the help of local suppliers and partnerships,” the partners wrote in a post.

Little Shell Chippewa Tribe clinic

The Little Shell Chippewa Tribe has purchased the former animal hospital at 425 Smelter Ave. N.E. for a new healthcare clinic.

The tribe has done some demolition inside and worked with Nelson Architects to remodel the space that will include dental, vision, pharmacy, radiology and lab services for Little Shell members, according to Molly Wendland, health director for the tribe.

Wendland said that they’re also incorporating traditional medicine and healing and coordinating with their housing person to “address whole person care.”

Business Bites: Rock N Chalk gym moving; Hopper and Ro reopens; pharmacies closing; Corda’s new album; Embark donates to local groups; airport considering light industrial park; GFCMSU dental clinic expansion underway, launches new partnership for business programs

They’re hoping to open the clinic by the end of the summer and are working with Indian Health Service for hiring providers and developing the price structure for their members.

The tribe has more than 5,600 members so far and enrollment has been climbing, Wendland said, since the tribe was federally recognized in December 2019.

Business Bites: New owner for The Living Room; Greystone renovation plans ongoing; Popcorn Colonel, R&R reopening; C.M. Russell Museum speaker series; Embark Credit Union lobby closed; CMR HOSA collecting donations for healthcare workers

The tribe is focusing on Cascade, Blaine, Hill and Glacier counties and has considered telehealth options with the design of the new clinic, Wendland said.


Rumors are swirling around town again that Popeyes is planning another location in Great Falls, particularly, The Electric has been asked if the franchise is moving into the former Hardee’s location downtown.

The answer is no.

Per Popeyes’ corporate media team: “At this time, there are no plans.”

So for the time being, the only place to get Popeye’s chicken is on Malmstrom Air Force Base.

The downtown Hardee’s remains vacant and for sale.

Business Bites: Back Alley Pub closes; Fire Station 4 work continues; VA Clinic moving; motor vehicle online portal now available

Christopher and Banks

Christopher & Banks has filed for bankruptcy and has begun closing more than 400 stores nationally.

The store in Holiday Village Mall is on the list of closures, as are the stores in Billings, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula.


The GameStop store in Marketplace is closing and holding a going out of business sale.

Mountain Title Company

Mountain Title Company has remodeled the former 1st Liberty Building at 920 Central Ave. W., and moved in over the Martin Luther King Day weekend.

“Mountain Title Company is the only locally owned title company servicing Cascade County. For the remodel we used as many locally owned companies as possible and their work has definitely made our new office a showroom for their products,” according to an email from the company.

The Refinery

The Refinery, a creative collective offering a variety of holistic services and goods, at 16 5th St. S. opened at the of December. 

Electric City Coffee

Electric City Coffee is celebrating their sixth birthday on Jan. 14.

“It all started with a dream, an amazing family and friends. Thank you to all our team and customers who have supported us thru these last six years. We appreciate you from the bottom of our hearts.

Business Bites: Boutiques donating to Rescue Mission; Bass Clef a FedEx shipping center; GFDA webinar; Elks grants

Valentines for foster kids

CASA-CAN is hosting a Valentine’s drive and the cards will be given to foster children in our community who have experienced abuse or neglect. 

There are two ways to participate: donate your valentines at the CASA-CAN office at 415 2nd Ave. N., Suite 100 
or mail your valentines to CASA-CAN at 315 2nd Ave. N. 

Donate from through Feb. 1.

Business Bites: Luna Coffee Bar opening; Eklund’s Fine Furniture closing; Game Night Lounge; Not Your Mama’s Nutrition; Ulmers 75th anniversary; Cakes for Thought; Broadwater Coffee offering discount for support of local businesses; Hoyt and Blewett remodel; restaurants bring back family meals

Office space

Scott Blumfield of Catalyst Commercial has five Opportunity Zone businesses condos for sale or lease in the former Wells Fargo building that now houses Opportunity Bank on the corner of 1st Avenue North and 3rd Street. The building was constructed in 1914 and remodeling is in progress. 

Hotel closures

The Wingate by Wyndham has joined the TraveLodge in temporarily closing until spring when overnight visitation picks back up. Wingate closed in November and the property is also listed for sale. The TraveLodge downtown is undergoing a renovation.