Party America closes; owners give thanks to community

Posted at 4:43 PM, May 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 14:49:49-04

GREAT FALLS – Saturday marked the last day of business for Party America in Great Falls. They closed their doors permanently at 6 p.m.

Lee and Barb Haacke have owned and operated Party American for the past 20 years.

They said it’s hard to believe.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, I guess. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of craziness and stuff like that, but there’s a lot of things I’ll miss,” said Lee.

“We’ve been a part of helping people celebrate their lives for 20 years. We’re seriously and sincerely going to miss that,” said Barb.

They don’t have any plans to leave Great Falls as they head into retirement, and said that they are grateful for the community letting them help celebrate their lives.

Reporting by Kaley Collins for MTN News

(APRIL 9, 2018) Party America in Great Falls, located near Albertsons at 25 14th Avenue NW, announced on Sunday that they are closing, as owners Lee and Barb Haacke have decided to retire. The expected last day of operation is May 26.

While they’re excited to enjoy their time off, it wasn’t without a few tears. “We’re getting calls from our former employees that were high school kids that worked here,” said Lee.

Christine Sheldon, a former employee, is sad to see it go: “I cried yesterday when I heard the news, I’ll admit it. It’s just, I thought they’d always be here and I get it. I mean, after 20 years.”

The Haackes said it was time, though; Barb explained, “We want to enjoy life. We’ve been working 70 and 80 hour weeks for 20 years and our last vacation was in 2006, so it’s time for us to enjoy life.”

They said they’ll cherish the memories of helping generation after generation, as Barb said it, “celebrate their lives.”

“You see the progression of, you know, doing their baby bunting Halloween costume, then they’re in school and you do all their birthdays, then they graduate from high school and now they’re getting ready to get married. It’s like, you know, those are great memories, “said Barb.

The Haackes said they plan to stay in Great Falls, but are looking forward to relaxing.

The future of the location has already been determined, as Benefis Health System plans to open a medical facility in the space. Benefis opened a walk-in clinic nearby several years ago, and plans to move and expand into the new location.

Kathy Hill, the chief operating officer for Benefis Medical Group, said in a press release:

Benefis first established its Walk-In Express location on the northwest side of Great Falls in January 2016 and has since experienced increased demand for services in that area.

We are quickly outgrowing our current Benefis Walk-In Express space and have been looking for a new building to expand our service offering in Northwest Great Falls. In addition to expanding Walk-In Express, we plan to add primary care services, including Family Practice and Pediatrics, as well as basic x-ray capabilities, to increase convenience for those living on the northwest side of Great Falls.

Renovations on the Party America building will start this summer. We expect that construction to be complete in 2019. Until then, Benefis Walk-In Express will remain fully functional at its current location at 1520 3rd Street NW.