HELENA — From Alzada to Zortman, it's no secret Montana made products are often sought as presents in Treasure State. One store in Helena has made it their goal to feature products from all of Montana's 56 Counties.
“I wanted it to be a collaboration between every local artisan that I could get on board with my idea and thankfully that has paid off,” owner of 56 Counties, Megan Martin said.
Originally located in front of the Larson building, the shop first opened in September of 2022. In January of this year, they moved to 216 E. Lyndale Avenue in what used to be Richard Van Nice Books. However, the building has had many uses.
“We’ve had people say, I grew up here and I’ve had one lady who lived here during her college years and [she] said ‘well, the bathroom wasn’t that big that that long ago, things have changed. It is a time capsule in some respects, so it was exciting to bring a little bit of our new into the old,” said Martin.
At the time of opening the store included vendors from 17 counties, now they are in negotiations for their 35th.
Martin previously worked for the state, which allowed her to travel across Montana.
She said, “I have been to every single county. I’ve been to some nooks and crannies of Montana that I think even locals don’t know about.”
Martin has the ambition to include vendors from all 56 counties by January, however, she said more realistically it will take the next six months.
While shopping brand names may be more convenient at times, Martin said the intrigue of seeing what the community creates draws many to local makers.
“You might find two of one thing, but it’s not exactly the same and that’s what I love about it. So, we sell earrings, we sell jewelry, and they might all have the same aesthetic, but no two things are alike,” she said.
At the end of the day buying local, be it 56 counties or any other local retailer, helps support producers and businesses that are made in Montana.