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.
Great 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.
Few 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.