If you blink, you might miss the small town of Neihart, tucked away in the Little Belt Mountains, and as people pass through to go to Showdown or to Great Falls, one store stands out.
Store Manager Dan Eckert is the first voice you’ll hear when you walk into Neihart’s Inconvenience Store, but it’s more than just his welcoming that makes passersby feel right at home.
“It’s an experience to shop here. You’re going to get engaged in conversation, you’re going to find out what’s going on and we have a bathroom,” said Eckert.
And the name being the first that catches their attention. He explained: “Sometimes we’re closed, sometimes we don’t have what you want.”
The store does have a certain atmosphere that brings people in and keeps them coming back.
“There’s coffee in here every day from 7 to 9 every morning, and there’s cocktail hour sometimes, and every Saturday night during the summer, we have potluck dinners and just so much to do and just so fun to be here,” said Eckert.
Recently the original owners of the store retired, so the locals, in true Neihart fashion, stepped up creating the Neihart Store Co-Op Development.
“I have the backing of 150+ people, as opposed to just one or two people saying, ‘Get your job done.’ We’re all working together to keep this store going and keep it alive,” said Eckert.
He added that the store is the heartbeat for the town.
“We have volunteers going shopping for us, we have volunteers that will run the register so I can have some time off, we have people help with groceries when they come in. Everybody pitches in,” said Eckert.
The store was also the center of the I Heart Neihart Festival all day Sunday.
It started at 8 a.m. with an all-you-can-eat breakfast followed by the 8th Annual Rubber Duck Race. All the money raised during the race will go toward buying new picnic tables for the Neihart Community Park and steps for the Neihart Pinehill Cemetery.
There was also live music from We Ski Cousins, Melissa Lynn, Up in the Air, and The Thrillbillies.
Reporting by Kaley Collins for MTN News