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Briefly Noted: ‘The Missoula Mercantile’ by Minie Smith

Minie Smith’s The Missoula Mercantile traces the history of an 1866 Missoula, Montana trading post that ultimately became—according to a story about the book in The Missoulian–“the largest department store between Minneapolis and Seattle.” The 192-page book, which includes 82 historic pictures–was released by The History Press in August.

According to The Missoulian, “Allied Stores Corp. bought the Merc in 1960 but retained the name until the Bon Marche bought Allied in 1978. Federated Department Stores took over in 1989, and the name changed over the years from the Bon to Bon-Macy’s and, in 2005, to Macy’s. Macy’s closed the doors in early 2010.” Smith’s history follows the store up until 1960.

Publisher’s Description: From its log cabin beginnings at a dusty crossroads in Montana Territory, the Missoula Mercantile grew to become the largest department store between Minneapolis and Seattle. Under the guidance of A.B. Hammond and C.H. McLeod and their policy of community involvement and customer satisfaction, the Merc became a household word in Montana, synonymous with square dealing. Join historian Minie Smith as she traces the story of a western institution, remembering everything from the Missoula Mercantile’s hardware department, with its creaky wooden floors and drawers of nuts and bolts, to its ladies’ apparel department, which offered a taste of the big city with silks, satins and velveteens. From horseshoes to hosieries, the Merc had what customers needed and knew what they wanted.

Today’s look-alike stores are pretty much the same from town to town, but the old stores were a part of local history, giving one the impression that if the old walls could talk, one would know everything about a place that could ever be known. Fortunately, the store’s old building is being preserved and The Missoula Mercantile is telling its story.

Book Signing: Smith will be signing copies of The Missoula Mercantile this Saturday Morning at 10:30 at Fact and Fiction Downtown  in Missoula and at the University of Montana Bookstore at 2 p.m. on Friday, September 21.


A Glacier Park fantasy for your Nook.

  1. Smoky Zeidel #

    I wish old stores like this still existed everywhere. Such charm. So…not Walmart!

    September 14, 2012
  2. There’s alwasy Wall Drug. Okay, that doesn’t count.

    September 14, 2012
  3. I loved the Merc back in the late 40’s and 50’s. Missoula has not been the same since its demise.

    I remember my Dad telling stories about some of the very hard winters that Missoula had back then when the wind blew blizzards in through Hellgate Canyon. Often the only moving things in Missoula were the horse-drawn sleds of the Merc delivering groceries all over town.

    September 14, 2012
    • I wondered if you might have been there. Those old sleds would have been something to see! I hope they come up with a reasonable “adaptive re-use” for the old building.

      September 14, 2012

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