I can still vividly remember the day a switch turned in my brain and I started making the conscious effort to make Belgrade my home. At that point, I had lived in the Gallatin Valley for around 18 years and the most recent seven were spent in the 59714 zip code.
However, when asked where I was from, I said Bozeman. It wasn’t that I was trying to dis Belgrade, in fact – I didn’t even think about it. I came to Bozeman for college and enjoyed the first few years of marriage there before my husband and I decided to build a house in Belgrade – and not just for financial reasons, like many people think is the only reason people move to Belgrade over Bozeman… but that’s for another article. I worked in Bozeman, I played in Bozeman, I went out to eat in Bozeman, I shopped in Bozeman, so when asked where I was from, I associated myself with Bozeman. On top of all my time spent in Bozeman, we didn’t build our house within the Belgrade City limits, we are on the south side of the interstate which at times can feel like an island, and my kids were just barely in school so I didn’t have that connection to the community. When shopping, dining out, or seeking entertainment or activities, there was really no reason to change the habit of jumping on the interstate and going “into town”, as I like to call it, for all our wants and needs.
Then one day, I had a long list of things I wanted and needed to do. It wasn’t a work day so I wasn’t already making the twenty minute trek from my house “into town” and I was dragging my feet on going. I didn’t want to deal with the ever increasing amount of traffic, I didn’t want to search for parking spots, I didn’t want to be just another body in the sea of beings rushing to get things done at stores and businesses that see so many people that it’s hard to create a relationship with everyone who steps foot in their doors. So as I was grumbling and making excuses for not getting going on my to-do list, a thought occurred to me… could I do everything on my list… in Belgrade?! The thought then turned into a personal challenge. I grabbed my list and headed out the door anticipating failure. I started by getting my oil changed at Belgrade Auto Lube. Easy, I’ve been going there for years. Second, I picked up random things needed for spring cleaning and home fix up chores at TrueValue. I had only been in there a handful of times and mostly for paint supplies or hardwarey type things but this time I took the time to look around and I marveled at what I found! I had no idea they carried so many items! If there motto isn’t “if you can’t find it here, you don’t need it” – it should be! I did my regular grocery shopping, got a great cup of coffee, and went to the bank all while dreading the last thing on my list because there was no way I was going to get it done in Belgrade. The last thing I had to do was shop for Mother’s Day gifts and I just knew there were no stores in Belgrade that carried GIFTS let alone fun or cute gifts! My first stop was Carr’s Posie Patch, a place I had driven by multiple times but never stopped because I thought they were just a flower arrangement store. I was very wrong and within minutes found perfect items for both my mom and my mother-in-law. I was in shock and awe, and saddened by the fact that I had overlooked Belgrade and the businesses that serve us for so long. When I crossed this last thing off my list I realized that I had drove less 15 miles, spent a fraction of the time it would have taken had I gone “into town”, AND to my delight, had so much time left over, I treated myself to a pedicure at Bella Salon.
This day was the first day of my challenge and the start of a change in my frame of mind. I now think Belgrade first when it comes to crossing things off my list or having fun. Most all the gifts I buy are from the wonderful Belgrade places I discover while out and about. When my family eats out, most of the time it’s in Belgrade. My daughter has become a connoisseur of onion soup and no place has even come close on her list to The Mint’s. When I am looking for health and wellness options, I know I have lots of choices in Belgrade from Zumba with Shirley at LiveLifeFit in the Bridger View Community Center to yoga, Pilates, and an amazing infrared sauna and float tank at Re:alignment. My beautician is a Belgrade resident and almost all my kids’ afterschool activities are done in Belgrade now. Instead of having to run to Bozeman for dance or gymnastics, we stick close to home and have taken dance classes at Bridger View Ballet Center with Shari Watson or Acro/Tumbling at Tanya’s Dance Co. My girls are currently in Girls on the Run, a Thrive program that they’ve generously shared with Belgrade. Art classes are taken from Wendy Marquis and entertainment is had while supporting our schools and community such as the recent Lip Sync contest between the Middle and High School teachers. I’d gladly pay over and over to see Mr. Rick Phillips excellently portray Pitbull!
These are just a few of the places I try and frequent in Belgrade. And by doing so, I’ve found that the benefit isn’t just for the business owner, there is something in it for me as well. I’ve started to get to know these business owners and they’ve started to know me. When I shop or dine, I am not just another body in the sea of beings and the store owners that I support are not just faces behind the cash register, they have become my friends. And like all my friends, I want them to succeed. There is also a sense of home and a sense of community when you make this connection and who doesn’t like to be greeted by name when you walk into a place? We’ve all heard the slogan “know your farmer”, I think we should also “know your local business owner”.
I’ll also point out that I still shop, I still eat out, and I still go to events in Bozeman and there is nothing wrong with that. I feel lucky to live so close to a city that allows us to have as many cultural choice as Montana can offer, restaurants that amaze, a variety of events so that we may never get bored, and of course the Bobcats to cheer on. However, when possible, and when it makes sense for me and my family, I choose Belgrade businesses first because we live in Belgrade and Belgrade is our home. (Article first published in Bozeman Magazine, November 2017 and then in the Belgrade News)