Business Bites: The Commons on Central coming to former JJs Bakery; The Wild Hare renovation progressing; demo permit issued for former China Buffet; Studio Barre celebrating third anniversary; Cassiopeia hosting events; Hi-Line Climbing expansion continuing; NWGF acquires more land

The Commons on Central

A group of business owners are moving into the former JJs Bakery at 112 Central to create The Commons on Central.

The plan includes Annie’s Taphouse at the front with plans for 24 craft beer taps, as well as seltzers, wine, root beer and more. They named it Annie’s after owners Dan and Steve Morano’s great grandmother, Annie Busby, who was one of the first women homesteaders in Cascade County.

All The Things Charcuterie will be using the kitchen space in the middle for their business with plans to expand options for pick up and grab and go options

In the former Back Allery Pub space, Tres 65, a party in a box shop, and Sub Rosa, an event space will be taking over.

Dan Morano, said that they plan to open in the spring and are planning to begin the remodel in the next month.

The city has not yet issued permits, but Morana said they were finalizing those details soon.

The Wild Hare/Night Owl

Matt Robb and his business partners are currently renovating the former Lobby Bar that was also the Jockey Club in the 1930s at 518 Central Ave.

Robb said their exposing the arched ceiling that had been visible in the 30s, making the front bar that’s currently operating during renovation into a tequila tasting room, cocktail lounge and liquor sales areas, when the full bar that will also include “elevated bar food” opens.

Business Bites: The Lobby converting to The Wild Hare; Jersey Mike’s coming next to 5 on Black; Open House at downtown apartments; poetry reading at Cassiopeia; 7th Ferrying Group presentation at The History Museum

He’s hoping to be open in February.

Next they’ll work on renovating the basement in to a speakeasy style space that will be called the Night Owl.

During the Oct. 28 Invest Great Falls event, Robb said that he and his partners “fell in love with Great Falls because of the community,” when they started visiting to look for a building.

Robb and his partners operate bars and entertainment ventures in California, Hawaii and Nashville, Tenn.

The group applied for a remodel permit in March and the city issued the permit in May for the first floor of the building.

During the Oct. 28 event, Robb said that after working in other locations, they “loved working with the city. They’ve helped us out a lot.”

“We think of downtown as something special,” he said.


NeighborWorks Great Falls has purchased a 123-acre property south of the city limits near Highland Cemetery that they don’t currently have set plans for, but could use for another batch of the self-build homes, in which owners help build the homes.

NWGF receives $6.1 million in low income housing tax credits for Baatz Building renovation

Former China Buffet

A permit has been issued to demolish the former China Buffet at the corner of 10th Avenue South and 17th Street. A permit has not yet been issued for construction for the site, but we’ll update as soon as it has.

Studio Barre

Studio Barre is celebrating their third anniversary next month and hosting an event on Nov. 6 with free classes, champagne and a storewide boutique sale.

Studio Barre coming to downtown Great Falls

“Words can’t express how thankful we are for all of you. Your continued support and encouragement the past 3 years has been nothing short of amazing,” Keely Baker, owner said.

Hi-Line Climbing Center

The Hi-Line Climbing Center is planning an expansion and this month updated their progress.

Since January 2020, the owners, Brian and Abby Thompson, said they’ve put $59,000 toward the new gym and have about $80,000 in design expenses as they save up for the next step. Then they’ll go out for bid for construction.

Business Bites: Pier 1 closing in Great Falls; work at Joe’s Place; Hi-Line Climbing expansion plans; Fast Signs opens; Purple Gold expanding

“We think we know what price they will put on the build, but we don’t know for sure. Because we don’t know for sure what the total is, we don’t know for sure how close we are to making our down payment to start the loan. I know it sounds a little unclear, but simply put…you need a lot of money to take out a big loan and that is what we are trying to do. We expect the new gym, once completed, might have a price tag of around $2 million. If this price floors you, well ditto here. Us too. There is a little bit of an ‘if you build it they will come’ and a little bit of ‘expand once you have the customer need.’ So as you might have guessed we are trying to put this more in the later of the two categories through member increases and constant searching for climbers, because there is no such thing as too big to fail when it comes to small business,” the Thompsons wrote. “I’m trying to be as candid as possible here, because it really is a user built project. Every day pass, every membership, every sale goes directly to this project. So if you are a customer of the Hi Line, you are building this. I hope you are proud of this. Thank you! Not included in our project is my secret objective to get a tap house/brewery/coffee house/taco bar to join in the fun! That could just be dreaming though.”

Business in profile: Hi-Line Climbing Center


Erin McLain, the broker for the former Hardee’s location at 101 1st Ave. N. said during the Oct. 28 event that the property owners are open to a new buyer who could assume the Hardee’s franchise lease, which the owners are still paying through 2032.

The owners are also open to options for renovating or building to suit a new owner’s business plans.

Cassiopeia Books events

Cassiopeia Books is hosting several events in November.

  • Nov. 5 at 6 p.m.: a presentation by author Seth Kantner, on his latest book, A Thousand Trails Home: Living with Caribou and a special guest appearance by Don Rearden, reading from his recently published poetry collection, Without a Paddle.
  • Nov. 10 at 6 p.m.: the first meeting of the Cassiopeia Books Book Club. The club will be discussing Regarding Willingness, by Montana author Tom Harpole.
  • Nov. 13 at 2 p.m.: a reading by Catherine Raven, from her best-selling memoir, Fox & I.  Fox & I recounts Dr. Raven’s time living alone in a remote Montana cabin with no company, except for her daily visitor, the fox.
  • Nov. 18 at 6 p.m.: a presentation by historian and author, Ken Robison, who will discuss his new book, Cold War Montana.