Holiday Village Mall; Great Falls, Montana

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Great Falls, Montana, is a city of almost 60,000 residents located in the north central part of the state, about 100 miles south of the Canadian border and 90 miles north of Helena.  Great Falls is located on the northern Great Plains; however, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains begin just west of the city.  The economy in Great Falls includes a rich history in energy, harnessing the power produced by the falls on the Missouri River, and in military operations as Great Falls is home to Malmstrom Air Force Base.

holiday-village-mall-15Great Falls is also a regional hub for business and retail.  Interstate 15 connects Great Falls to Helena, Montana’s state capital, and the rest of the state’s cities are accessible via Interstate 90.  Great Falls is also the closest American city of size to residents of Alberta, and many area businesses have hoisted Canadian flags to show their welcome.  Much of the retail strip in this small city is located along 10th Avenue South, including the region’s mall:  Holiday Village Mall.

The oldest mall in Montana, Holiday Village Mall opened in 1959, anchored by Albertson’s grocery store, Skaggs Drugs, and Montgomery Ward.  In the 1960s, Havre-based Buttrey’s Drug and Buttrey’s Suburban department store were added to the mall.  In 1979, Minnesota-based Herberger’s department store opened on the east side of the mall in a minor expansion.  Also, at some point the Buttrey’s Suburban department store became JCPenney.

Then, in 1981, the Skaggs drug store became Osco because of Skaggs’ parent, American Stores, who bought out Jewel.  In a rather odd twist, the Buttrey drug store also became Osco, and until 1992 two Oscos operated at the mall until the Buttrey-Osco was torn down for Sears.  The mall also received its most recent renovation in 1992, and at some point a Scheels sporting goods store was added.

holiday-village-mall-21Few changes took place at Holiday Village Mall throughout the rest of the 1990s, until 2000, when Albertson’s closed after over 40 years at the mall.  Also in 2000, Montgomery Ward closed, and Herberger’s moved to the former Wards location.  Then, in 2006, the remaining Osco in the front of the mall on the upper level became a CVS, as all standalone Oscos nationwide followed suit.  Finally, the most recent changes at the mall occurred in 2007, as Scheels moved into the old Herbergers, the old Scheels became a Bed, Bath and Beyond, and the old Albertsons became a Ross Dress for Less. 

Perhaps the most interesting features of Montana’s oldest mall are the combination of dated decor and rather unconventional design. As indicated by the pictures, taken in July 2009, the main mall level is not only dated with mirrors and dark woods, but the entire level is built on a hill and has frequent ramps and sets of stairs.  In addition, the upper level and lower level do not remotely line up, and almost feel as though they are separate malls sewn together by random access portals.  A lone escalator leads up from the mall’s food court, directly into the middle of JCPenney, and just west of the food court on the main level a side access hallway leads to a choice of a set of stairs or an escalator leading to Scheels.  The mall’s upper level is much smaller than the lower level, and instead of a linear concourse the upper level is more L-shaped.  Also, several stores on the upper level, from CVS onward, are only accessible from the outside – like a strip mall.  Compared to most boring mall designs, it’s actually kind of neat. 

Take a look at the pictures, taken in July 2009, and feel free to leave your comments and experiences with Holiday Village Mall. 

19 Responses to “Holiday Village Mall; Great Falls, Montana”

  1. I absolutely LOVE malls with really unconventional layouts. It seems like another mall you covered in Montana has a really weird layout as well. I guess with small populations and little competition there it is easier for them to get away with piecemealing a mall together.

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @JT, I agree, the other malls I saw in Helena and Butte were really small/sad even compared to this one. At some point I want to get to Missoula and Billings, Montana’s “big cities”, but I guess that’ll have to wait.

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  2. JCPenney really needs to get their signs together!

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  3. That’s interesting how the Claire’s looks like an Icing, but with a Claire’s sign xD

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  4. The tile work, floors and overabundance of mirrors is great!

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  5. Wow, an open Sam Goody!

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  6. I wonder if this mall is only as big as it is because of the Canadian shoppers.

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  7. My Parents won an Upright Freezer at Albertsons Grand opening in 59. I visited as a teen in 79, it still had the Buttreys Suburban Dept. Store.

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  8. Wow…this may have been the designers of monmouth mall in NJ….the same weird levels with the steps, and also has the same symbol that Monmouth did away with in 95,96

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  9. The Sam Goody is closing next month
    http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20091228/NEWS01/91228013/1002/Sam+Goody+closing

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  10. Nice too see a Montana mall here. I seem to rember a hobby shop from the 70’s on the lower floor below Pennys. I have to agree with the comments about the mall in Helena. That is one mall that would not survive the loss of the anchors.
    mike feek

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  11. […] a blog devoted to retail history, has a post about Great Falls’ very own Holiday Village Mall: The oldest mall in Montana, Holiday Village Mall opened in 1959, anchored by Albertson’s grocery […]

  12. There used to a KayBee’s toy store in the Holiday Village Mall. Loved that store. One thing that’s odd about the Holiday Village Mall (besides the layout of it)… there are no movie theaters in the mall.

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    Togadoo Reply:

    @NERVA, there was a movie theater there at one time. It was “The Fox” and was located across the hall from Aladdin’s Castle Arcade (which is now where the mall information area is). I remember seeing RETURN OF THE JEDI there in ’83.

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    Vicki T Reply:

    @Togadoo, I saw the whole Star Wars trilogy in the Fox theater. I wonder how much of the old theater is still in the building.

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  13. I used to live in Great Falls and moved to Spokane, but Spokane people aren’t as friendly as in Montana. The weather is nice in Spokane but there is a rise in diseases such as whooping cough and broncitis and other numerous viruses, so I decided to move back to Great Falls next month. It has grown since I lived there in the 80’s. Just as long as theres a Walmart and Pennys to shop at.

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  14. I was at this mall a few days ago, and it’s changed very little from the photos (a couple of chain stores have closed, and a couple of mom-and-pop stores have opened). Even on a Friday evening, there was very little activity, and surprisingly few Alberta plates in the parking lot. The Herberger’s store was nice, but the JC Penney was quite old and musty (looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the late 70s/early 80s). All in all, far from a dead mall, but it needs some work or it may become one.

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  15. I remember spending many hours at this mall, shopping, eating at the 4-B’s and visiting with my sister Grandmother, and Mom (mostly), as Dad was usually busy with work. I remember the excitement when it was built, and how it became a special place for just about everyone in and out of the city. Although I moved to Denver in 1960; I was back to visit and shop most every year until my parents passed away. I have so many fond memories of the Holiday Village Mall! Hope it can make it through all the hard times…..

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  16. Sears has announced it will be closing at the end of the year. that could hit this mall hard

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