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Vicki Connelly Schott of It Fits has a wide array of inventory in her downtown store, including the Porto Vino wine totes, which are very popular this holiday season.

Small Business Saturday is a national event celebrating the small businesses in cities, towns and communities across the nation. It is also a good time to remember to shop at these businesses, that, while small in size, are huge contributors to the economic development of every community they serve.

Cut Bank can proudly say they have a number of businesses that fit into the small business category. Many of those are not only going to be open Nov. 30, but will be offering some specials for that “special” day as well.

Here are a few thoughts from some of those businesses and their owners about their life in the small business world in a small town.

Doug and Kim Norman have had a Norman’s store in Cut Bank since 1979. The first store was the Western Wear store and then the sports store came into existence in 2000, followed by the hunting and fishing and outdoor store in 2015.

The three stores combined have a variety of everything from western wear, sports apparel and shoes, top clothing brands and outdoor items from clothing to all the supplies you could need for hunting, fishing, camping, etc. They have you covered from head to toe, no matter what your interest might be.

Kim loves the idea they have been able to serve this community for 40 years in a variety of capacities, including supporting local organizations and youth, 4-H, rodeos and countless sports activities. But most importantly, “shopping local, keeps local shopping available” for everyone,” she added.

“I shudder to think of losing all brick and mortar stores in Cut Bank to online and out of town big box stores,” she shared. “Folks would be then be stuck driving 100 miles for the bare essentials or waiting for deliveries without their convenient store right next door. It is really surprising how much is available in Cut Bank!”

In order to keep people coming through their doors, Kim said it is important for them “to guard against becoming complacent, but we still have the gift of gab and can visit with anyone,” she added with a smile. “We try to stay up-to-date, which can be a challenge and we rely on our customers and crew to keep us that way. Doug and I might have gotten off the ‘fashion train,’ but our kids, Jack and Jodi, and our crew are pretty trendy, so we are continually introducing new lines.”

She continued, “It is also nice to know your customers versus serving strangers as might happen in a metro area. We even know their kids and grandkids in a lot of families.”

Kim said as a small business in Cut Bank and after 40 years in the business, “they are still happy to please people. We still gift wrap for free and we are now serving our third generation of shoppers in Glacier County.” How many small businesses or even big businesses, can say that?

“If we don’t have something in stock, be sure to ask if we can order it. We still do quite a few special orders for people. We appreciate our customers and will go above and beyond to get what customers want and need.”

To thank their customers for 40 years of shopping with them, Kim said they are asking customers to sign up for the free drawings they are giving away for the entire month of December.

Val Vermulm of Billman’s Home Décor has been in the furniture, mattress, electronics and home décor business for the last 15 years. During those years, she and husband Doug, the owners, have made friends, established business relationships and said time and again, how much they appreciate their customers who shop local.

“It is important to shop our local community first,” she said. “After all, it’s the small businesses that support our youth and every fundraiser that comes through the door,” she said.

While there are many things that make having a small business in a small town amazing, Val said the best thing “is that our customers are our friends, which makes our job that much more fun.”

She added, “It is difficult, however, getting people to give us a chance. We can meet or beat anybody in the business if we just get the opportunity. Please just come see us and if we miss the boat, then that is on us. But, please, at least give us the chance. We want your business and will do whatever we can to get it. It is a pleasure to serve our local community.”

Ashley Kavanagh is a new small business owner, having taken over ownership of Rose Petal Floral and Café and Supplies earlier this year. Even though this is her first venture in small business, she understands very well just how important the shop local concept is, for her success as a small business and for the continued development of this community. 

“For us, the best part of shopping local is the relationships we build. The feedback and ideas we receive about products and services help mold the shop into a reflection of what our customers want from their local shopping experience,” she said. 

This might be Ashley’s first year in business, but Rose Petal has been serving Cut Bank and the surrounding areas for over 10 years. And while flowers are their mainstay, Ashley has made sure there is a lot more than flowers in the store.

“We carry a variety of goods from Montana makers and well-known brands from around the world, including Genesis Kitchen, Rifle Paper Co. and Love Your Melon. We also have gourmet food products, kitchen wares and cookbooks, jewelry, skincare and more,” she stated. 

Small Business Saturday is the perfect day for Ashley to showcase what she is offering at her new small business. 

“Small Business Saturday is one of our favorite days of the year because it acknowledges small business as the backbone and catalyst of a thriving community. This year, we will be open on Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a Bellwether Jewelry Trunk Show with designer Clare Stone. She will have current designs and a few custom designs just for the show. There will also be a do-it-yourself tassel necklace station for you to make your own custom creations. We will have appetizers, holiday beverages, special discounts throughout the store and a holiday photo booth too. We hope you will join us!”

Vicki Connelly Schott is the owner of It Fits Clothing here in Cut Bank. She is located at 19 West Main Street and has been in business in Cut Bank for the last eight and a half years. 

Vicki has a wonderful, eclectic group of items in her store, covering everything from clothing, footwear, military and veteran’s items, NFL products, chocolates, jewelry, purses, custom gift baskets and something new for the holiday season, “Wine Purse.” 

“They are called PortoVino bags and it allows you to put your wine bottle in the bag and dispense the wine right from the spout on the outside of the bag,” she explained. “Every PortoVino bag purchased donates money to starving children around the world.”

Having been a small business owner in a small town for almost 10 years, Vicki knows the value of having people in town shop local. 

“I feel it is absolutely important for people in a small town to shop local because supporting local businesses keeps money in town and keeps the small businesses active. These small businesses are families who have put themselves and their hearts out there to provide a service for you and your family while trying to make a living. It is not a simple decision to open a store front, as it is challenging and risky and scary. When the local business is not supported nor accepted by the community, then you may see closures which is not good for the local economy.”

For Vicki the biggest challenge to having a small business in a small town is getting people to come into her store and see all the wonderful items she has to offer.

“The biggest challenge is trying to capture local business rather than having people shop out of town or at the big box stores. I feel that if we, as shoppers, were to spend a few weekends visiting our small businesses we would see what is offered and available locally and how we can really save you money if you shop locally,” she said. “I think many people would be surprised of the variety of products and the availability.”

Vicki’s shop will be open on Small Business Saturday and on Dec. 4, she will be hosting a holiday open house from 4-8 p.m. and has some fun activities planned along with a visit from Mrs. Santa Claus. 

Come stop by It Fits and let Vicki show you “how much I truly appreciate your business, which has allowed me to be open for the last eight years!”

If coffee and espresso drinks are on your list of yummy treats you enjoy, then Latte Da is the small business you need to visit. 

Kacie Fey is the owner of this little coffee house doing big business in Cut Bank. “I am conveniently located on the corner of Main Street and 4th Avenue SE, right next to Cut Bank Auto Body. I sell specialty coffee drinks, Red Bull drinks, chai teas, frappes, muffin tops, scones, cookies and very soon, I will have breakfast burritos.”

Kacie has been “slinging coffee for seven years” opening first in a concessions trailer in 2012 and realized business was good, but working out of a concessions trailer in the winter, in Cut Bank, not so good. 

It was not long before she put up a more permanent structure, complete with heat and business has been booming for this lady ever since. 

“I grew up in Cut Bank. Lots of my customers either knew me growing up, my parents, my grandparents, sister, in-laws, etc. Everybody knows everybody. I like that. People that I knew of but had never talked to before have become dear friends. It is nice to meet the tourists and passersby and learn their stories, where they are from, where they are traveling to,” she said.

Kacie is a firm believer in supporting all local businesses as much as you can. “If you want people to support you and your business, then you have to support others in their small businesses as well,” she offered. “In a small town, your business wouldn’t be what it is without the support of your locals. They are the bread and butter of a small community and are the salt of the earth people!”

Kacie also believes in giving back to the community that supports her at Latte Da. An example of that is their “Latte Dog” celebration happening every Saturday from now until Christmas. 

“If your dog or dogs love coming to get a coffee as much as you do, bring them with you and for every dog we see on Saturdays from now through Christmas, we will donate $1 to buy dog food for our local food pantry. And, your dog will get a special treat from us for coming to see us,” she said. “And if you decide to donate a bag of dog food and hand it over to us, your coffee that day is on us!” 

Kacie admits she has worked “extremely hard to build my business from the ground up. I have committed a lot of hard work, time and dedication into my business. I have some amazing employees and I definitely could not do it without them.”

She continued, “Keeping our customers happy is our number one priority. When you stop for a drink, you don’t just get a drink, you get great conversation, some jokes and lots of sarcasm. I think the last one is what keeps people coming back,” she joked.

Janet Larson of Recoup Consignment and Flower Shop has been in business for the last 12 years. She probably never dreamed when things started a dozen years ago, how this business would grow and the space they would need to display and “show-off” all the amazing items they receive on consignment and offer up for sale. And all that happening right here in little Cut Bank!

“We have a lot of everything in our store and it is amazing the number of people we are seeing on a regular basis. Some of them are our regular customers and some are new customers. We love our return customers and we love our new customers too.”

Janet said the customers they see come through their doors are are not just from Cut Bank, they are coming from all over, having heard about the little consignment shop and its amazing array of merchandise.

For Janet, having a business in small town means “you get to know your customers, what they like and what they are looking for. We enjoy that part of having a small business in a small town.”

Those customers are the support system that keep Recoup Consignment on the map and alive and well. “None of us in the small business world, would be here if we didn’t have the support of the local people in our community. They support us, so we in turn support what this town does. It keeps us all in business,” she said.

Janet realizes the online market does take away some of their business and she suggested, “Shop us first, you might not have to pay for shipping and if you are planning on driving somewhere, you might not have to travel because you just might find what you want right here in our store. We are trying very hard to meet the needs of the people who shop with us and I think we are successful in that endeavor.”

Janet said one of the best things that can happen in the business world, is having yet another business open in our small town of Cut Bank. “Every time a new business opens, we all benefit. It provides another shopping or eating opportunity and gives people that are thinking about coming to Cut Bank, another reason to live here or come and shop here.”

Some might think business is not booming in Cut Bank, but they would be wrong. Small businesses make this community and have kept it alive and well for decades. Those small businesses are, as Ashley said, the “backbone” of what makes this community what it is, a strong, vibrant place to live, raise your family, work and enjoy life as it is meant to be lived.

Support your local businesses, not only for the holiday season but for all seasons after that. We all benefit when this happens.

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