Business bites: Honey Hippo Play Cafe opening; Porkie D’s moving; GFDA hosting community meeting on economic development strategy; new Mexican food truck; Sip ‘n Dip finalists announced; Big River Ruckus this weekend; no, we’re still not getting an Olive Garden

Honey Hippo Play Cafe

The Honey Hippo Play Cafe, an indoor playground area for children 5 and under, is coming to the vacant space in the Pennant Building at the Corner of 1st Avenue North and 4th Street this fall.

Laura Ewalt, owner, said they’re working on interior demolition now and remodeling the space that will include indoor play areas for young children, a coffee bar, and an event/party room.

She said she’s been a stay-home mom with her two-year-old and “he’s been the driving force” in this project.

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Ewalk has been in Great Falls for about six years and said it can be tough to find kid-friendly, indoor activities in the winter months.

The Honey Hippo will be parent supervised so parents can let their kids play, chat with other parents or use the free WiFi to do a little work, she said.

“It’s a place for them to run, meet other kids and get some energy out,” Ewalt said.

She’s said she’s hoping to be open by Thanksgiving.

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So far, they’ve uncovered windows that had been covered on the inside in the 1980s or 1990s and she said it has changed the interior space and natural light now pours into the first floor space of the 1912 building owned by Jason Madill, who also owns the Strain Building at 410 Central.

Ewalt said she’s planning to partner with other community entities for classes and programs in the Honey Hippo space. She’s partnered with Brush Crazy for a free community paint party from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 10 at Brush Crazy. Kids can paint a tile that will be installed at Honey Hippo.

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Porkie D’s moving

Porkie D’s Soup to Go is moving form their current location behind the mall to 300 Smelter Ave. N.E., where Bright Eyes Cafe was previously located.

“Our building that we run our soup shop out of is up for sale and we were not interested in purchasing it. So, with that being said, if it were to sell we would have nowhere to go. Fortunately we have been blessed with an amazing opportunity to move to a new location. It is very bittersweet for us though as it is on the opposite side of town from where we are located now. We have built such strong relationships with our customers who have turned into dear friends at this location and we will be so sad not to see them all every day. However, we hope you will all come see us at our new soup shop,” Porkie D’s owners said in a Facebook post.

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They’re hoping to be in the new location by Oct. 1 as a drive through only. They’ll still accept call in orders and Door Dash deliveries. They’ll also be offering dinner hours at the new location from October through February and will be bringing back their extended soup menu for the winter.

GFDA community meeting

Share your knowledge and ideas to grow and strengthen the Great Falls regional economy. The Great Falls Development Authority is developing a new regional economic development strategy. The first step in the process is to gather information about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Great Falls economy. The community is invited to come share knowledge and ideas 5:30-7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Great Falls College MSU B101, south entrance.

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Mexican food truck

Taqueria Ibarra Montana, a food truck, is now operating in Great Falls.

Follow their Facebook page to see their locations and hours.

Sip ‘n Dip

The Sip ‘n Dip has selected their five finalists for the next voice of the Sip.

The finalists are Eric Bartz, Joel Corda, Melissa Smith, Lyle Sheets and Johnny Ritchie.

Sip ‘n Dip launches contest for next “unique talent

View their audition videos and more at

Beginning Sept. 7, the Sip will be featuring the finalists over the next few weeks until the live audition performances on Oct. 5-6.

Big River Ruckus

The Big River Ruckus, a three-day festival with music, arts and sporting events, is in Great Falls Sept. 10-12.

General admission is free.

Featured music acts are Too Slim and the Tail Draggers and Lil Smokies on Friday; Coco Montoya and Jason Boland and the Stragglers on Saturday; and Supaman and Ana Popovic on Sunday.

Friday’s lineup, starting at 3 p.m,, includes Helena band Insufficient Funds, followed by Too Slim at 5:30 p.m. and Lil Smokies at 7:30 p.m.

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Saturday music starts at noon with the Lucky Valentines, then Melissa Lynn Band at 2 p.m., Laney Lou and the Birddogs at 4 p.m., Coco Montoya comes on stage at 6 p.m. with headline Jason Boland and the Stragglers at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday’s music starts at noon with Crow hip-hop artist, Supaman. The closing act for the RUCKUS will be Ana Popovic at 2 p.m.

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More information about the schedule and VIP passes is available on the website.

The festival also includes disc golf and pickleball tournaments, the Treadmill Challenge, Yoga in the Park, Cross the Dam Bridge bike ride, the Luminaria Walk, Arts on Fire at Paris Gibson Square and a variety of children’s activities presented by the Great Falls Public Library.

The 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 will be commemorated by Great Falls Fire Rescue at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday at the Main Stage in Elks Riverside Park.

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Kids activities include a Story Walk at Gibson Park throughout the event, sidewalk chalk fun at 4 p.m. Sept. 10 and other activities near the Girl Scout Playhouse on Saturday, starting at noon. Imagining Dragons Puppet Show will be on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Arts on Fire is a free event at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, with hands-on art activities, theater and music performances, root beer floats and more than 40 artists. A free shuttle will be available from the Gibson bansdshell to Arts on Fire every 30 minutes.

Fetch expansion

Several months ago, city planning officials were approached about a potential Fetch expansion and possible new commercial tenant. The planning office hasn’t yet received a permit application so that’s not official yet.

Restaurant Rumors, continued

Yes, Jimmy Johns is still working on the former Feedlot site on the west side. Work is going slow, but it is indeed still a Jimmy Johns, per city planning.

Yes, Five Guys is opening soon, likely in the coming weeks.

Restaurant rumors

No, there are still no plans for an Olive Garden or off-base Popeyes location. We checked with the corporate offices.

No, there is no current plan for a Wendy’s location on the west side. There was discussion of such a location, but that dissolved and the city planning office said they have not been approached for a different location.

Yes, the former Suki’s is going to be a City Brew.

Yes, there’s a new Starbucks being constructed on the west side at the former Roger’s Jewelers site.

Yes, Jersey Mike’s is going in next to Five on Black.

No, nothing is going in to the former Hardee’s downtown at this point.

No, there are no active discussions about a Panera location in Great Falls, per the planning office. We’ve asked the company, multiple times, for years, and have yet to receive a reply.

If you’re looking for local restaurant news, we’ve got a handy dandy category button on the right side of the website. Select Business Bites and you’ll find all our past posts on local business. You can also use the search bar to look for something specifically. Chances are it’s in there, and if it’s not, feel free to email to ask.

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