GREAT FALLS — 2021 is ending and because of the Covid pandemic, this year was expected to be a bounce back year for the Great Falls economy. For a lot of the businesses in town, they did exactly that and then some.
The Great Falls economy performed better than expected this year, according to Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce President Shane Etzwiler. He says that performance was largely due to the central Montana community and more people shopping local to support current businesses and bring new ones to town.
“We had a lot of businesses say it was a record year for them. People are seeing the value of participating locally and that just doesn’t mean with the chamber or with organizations or volunteering,” Etzwiler said. “People are saying ‘let’s take care of our mom-and-pop shops, our family members, our friends, our neighbors have a business here in Great Falls.’ Let’s really shop local. And yeah, we do see a lot more online shopping and that did happen the last few years, but I think there was a greater focus on local shopping and people going let’s take care of our local folks, let’s take care of our people.”
Among the businesses that had a record year was Candy Masterpiece and although numbers aren’t final, they estimate they made 20% more than they did last year. They also say their product is becoming more well-known and the community has been much more supportive this past year and more people are shopping local.
Owner Angie Bruskotter says she has been open 22 years and that she has seen more people continually visiting her store. Several of her glass displays are usually filled with chocolate this time of year, but they’re mostly empty due to increased traffic, and it can take more than a month to fully stock them up again. She said she wasn’t expecting a record year and that she expected to stay on pace with last year, but it “took off” according to her.
“It’s my passion. We don’t have as much stock now but we have much more business,” Bruskotter said. “It’ll be 22 years in January, and I love my job as much as I did when I started. This year just kind of took off. I’m just grateful for everybody that supports their community and their city. It’s worthwhile. It’s a good thing. We’re just going to keep at this. Doing the best, coming up with new idea, new creative things. We’re already working on some fun things and keep just moving forward.”
Etzwiler says that not only did businesses in town grow, but the Chamber of Commerce also grew and he expects both to continue growing in 2022.