BELGRADE – Ask any thriving businessperson the secret to success and you’ll likely hear, “Keep it simple.”
For almost 40 years, Montana Canvas in Belgrade has been doing just that, and it might be the simplest business in Montana. They really focus on the two “T”s — tents and tarps — and have done that since 1982.
“Our products are throughout the U.S and actually throughout North America,” said Montana Canvas owner Kirt Dinges. “I would tell you Montana Canvas was built on word of mouth where one customer got a product and was really happy with the product, happy with the customer service and it just spread from there.”
There are currently 28 people working in the factory just south of Interstate 90. If you ask how Montana Canvas has been able to survive for more than four decades, that’s your answer: the people.
“We have our office manager, been with us 30 years. We have several people in the shop that have been with us 15, 20, 25 years. So back to what you said, it’s a special place and a special group of people which is why Montana Canvas is still here,” Dinges said.
Montana Canvas has moved from truck tarps into the luxury boat tarp world — all custom-made in Belgrade.
Wall tents are great for hunting and fishing camps, but the less adventurous are also finding them perfect for a glamping trip.
“It’s really expanding throughout the U.S., so we’re focused on that. It really helps us balance our business from spring to fall. Obviously, the hunt/fish camp is our core customer, but it brings a new customer base into Montana Canvas,” Dinges said.
Montana Canvas could move to a larger city, but those who work here say it’s the perfect location for what they do, nestled in the middle of the Gallatin Valley, tucked in right next to Interstate 90, and operating under the Big Sky.
“If it will hold up to Montana winters and some of the elements that we get here, you know it will pretty much hold up anywhere,” said Dinges.
Montana Canvas does make more than just tarps and tents. It also holds the patent on the corner brackets used for every wall tent the company sells.
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Reported by Chet Layman