Wheat Montana store in Helena to close

2012-03-02T00:44:00Z Wheat Montana store in Helena to closeIndependent Record Helena Independent Record
March 02, 2012 12:44 am  • 

After 10 years as a Helena bakery, store and deli, Wheat Montana is closing its doors next week.

Owner Jeff Riggs of Three Forks, said the closure comes after a failure to negotiate a lease agreement.

“We were looking for more of a short-term thing,” Riggs said. “We’ve been negotiating with the landlord for quite a while, and we couldn’t come up with a new lease that made sense for the both of us.”

Riggs said the shop, located at 2049 N. Main St. in Helena, has about 10 full-time and part-time employees. He said having to part ways with the staff has been the hardest thing.

“We had just a great staff and we’re super fortunate to have so many fun people working for us,” he said.

Riggs, who owns several other Wheat Montana franchise stores in the state, said there are no current plans to reopen a Wheat Montana in Helena.

But he said there’s a good chance he’ll open a similar restaurant and bakery he’s developed called Clark’s Fork in the future. He currently operates a Clark’s Fork in Bozeman.

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(22) Comments

  1. jlarsen
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    jlarsen - March 04, 2012 6:29 pm
    I have to agree with some of the earlier commenters, that the landlord is foolish for failing to negotiate a short-term lease. Five or ten years from now when that property hasn't earned them a single dime, I'll bet they feel some regret over that decision.

    However, I do have to think that there is a bit more than just the failure to negotiate a lease involved with the closing of the store, otherwise I would think it would be solved by finding a new location.

    I also have to agree with some of the other commenters, while the locations gives good exposure to traffic, it is a bit awkward to negotiate. Also, like so many other Helena businesses that have shuttered their doors over the years, keeping odd and restrictive hours doesn't help. Ignoring the fact that Helena is Montana's strictest 8-5/mon-fri city, with the state being by far the largest employer, you'd think any serious entrepreneur would attempt to be open later in the evenings, and all day on weekends when Helena's working class is available for patronage.

    Helena is no place for a lunch only or breakfast/lunch restaurant to survive unless it's within walking distance of the state buildings of the Capital complex. That goes double for all the shops on the walking mall that are closed Sat-Sun, and by 6:00 p.m. on weekdays.
  2. coolwhip2
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    coolwhip2 - March 03, 2012 9:12 am
    LOCATION! I've driven by that place a thousand times and only considered stopping for a sandwich once. I was saddened that it did not mirror the operation in Three Forks. I ate my $11.00 sandwich and was on my way. I must have not been the only one.
  3. bizmommy
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    bizmommy - March 03, 2012 8:36 am
    If anyone believes that rent is the entire story here you are crazy. If you have a business and product that is making you money you will find a way to either stay in your current market or sell off and get a good return. This restaurant is franchised so it would be very appealing for someone to purchase. All I'm saying is there is MUCH more to this story than what appears.
    Also, I own and operate a small business in Helena and I have to say that our community has been nothing but supportive! We have the best people here who just want to see small businesses succeed. Unfortunately some don't but so it goes with owning a business.
  4. dweezil222
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    dweezil222 - March 02, 2012 10:05 pm
    I agree with TOwens -- the odd hours Wheat Montana has didn't do them any good.
  5. Motorchild
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    Motorchild - March 02, 2012 5:44 pm
    So now we have a Montana family owned landmark operation closing its doors and a landlord getting absolutely nothing for the space he was renting out.

    It's amazing how many commercial property owners would rather shoot themselves in the foot than come to mutual terms over the rent. What makes them do that? Greed; stupidity; or a combination thereof? On the other hand, that particular Wheat Montana store could be in part to blame as well for being too darned cheap with the ingredients. I'll bet they ended up having to throw away more food than they served.

    Either way, their closing for whatever the reason might be is sad and sorry news.
  6. TOwens
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    TOwens - March 02, 2012 3:02 pm
    I said this a couple of years ago on here and caught a lot of flak, but I'll say it again. Many small businesses here, especially downtown, will not survive because they refuse to stay open when people are willing to shop. Many of the local businesses close early during the week, and aren't open on weekends. Well, guess what? That's when most of us are off work, and want to shop for things we need. I give props to the ice cream shoppe that is downtown now, (sorry, the name slips my mind at this moment), because they are open at night and on weekends. And, another guess what? They are busy! I can't pass that place in the evening, during the summer especially, without seeing a line all the way out the door. There is a coffee shop near to it that has extended their hours as well, and they feed off the traffic generated by this ice cream shoppe. I go to these places, as does my family, because they have made it possible to do so. That is one reason the box stores that every local seems to hate will continue to thrive. They realize that to get the most customers, they have to be open when customers are shopping. You know what, small business owners of our city? It's called retail. If you don't want to work retail hours, choose another line of work.
  7. EEDad
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    EEDad - March 02, 2012 2:43 pm
    freebsky
    If Helena is "CHOCK FULL of vacant commercial properties" then the folks at the sandwich shop had the option of finding cheaper rent elsewhere. That's the beauty of a free market.

    If the sandwich shop was a "viable business" it would be able to absorb the change in rent by charging more for their product or by finding someplace that rents within their budget. Still, the beauty of a free market.

    I personally was surprised the place lasted as long as they did. They served an overpriced product that lacked in substance and quality in my opinion. Do you truly think that the help decides portions and ingredients at Wheat Montana? This place was doomed from the outset. I personally ate their twice when they first opened. I left hungry and feeling ripped off. Neither were the fault of the landlord or the folks following the portion controls set by the owner.

    freebsky said: "Attention Landlord: In case you live under a rock, Helena is CHOCK FULL of vacant commercial properties from shops, stores, & businesses going belly-up. Here you have a viable business that contributes to our town, and you are going to let them go. Take a look around, your commercial space will be vacant for years, just like countless others in Helena. It is better to have a bird in the hand than two in the bush.And to all the waif-thin, teenaged girls that Wheat Montana hires, LEARN HOW TO MAKE A SANDWICH!!!! Just because you only eat as much as a parakeet doesn't mean we do!! PUT some ingredients on those sandwiches!!!! "

  8. tsm1mt
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    tsm1mt - March 02, 2012 2:38 pm
    waterunderground said: "I suspect that it was not a rent issue. Wheat Montana said in the article that they were trying for a short term lease. That indicates to me that they were not doing well and might have to close.Frankly I am not suprised if they were not doing well. They charged high prices for skimpy sandwiches. I eat out for lunch very often and prefer local places to national chains. After feeling like I paid too much and got too little from Wheat Montana I quit going there years ago. Did anybody have a different experience?"


    I believe they wanted a short lease because they were looking to relocate to the new Custer Interchange in the near future, not because things were going poorly.
  9. farside
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    farside - March 02, 2012 2:27 pm
    To JeremiahJohnson: Oh you got me laughing! your comment about "people here are tight with their money". People can argue this all day but this just reminds me of my first experience down at the walk, in an art studio,,, we had been thru the store viewing the arts, and found a piece that we liked... The artist who was minding the store came over and talked to us when we told him we wanted the piece- he just stared at us and said- " your not from around here, are you?" We had to admit to this and he said he could tell because if it was anyone in the area, it would of taken them multiple trips and ~ 6 +months to come around and buy a piece! This person is a helena artist who commented on how" stingy" the locals are. I only note this cause it caught me off guard- it just gave me a quick flashback. OK, so art isn't bread but this was well before the economic crunch currently happening. But I do see lots more businesses going adios,, except costco- that one really has me confused. I remembering reading all sorts of articles about this going in, and the NEGATIVE on-line comments from lots of people not wanting it.. I remember when it opened, it was the first costco I ever went to that I could actually walk up to the counter with no one in line. But now? GEEE! I just wish that all those people that didn't want it would shop elsewhere- PLEASE!!! Look at the parking lot/ every day! ,,, yeah, like you didn't want it
  10. monterrapin
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    monterrapin - March 02, 2012 10:56 am
    Jimmy Johns will be open soon enough!!
    mmmmm... I'm hungry now!!
  11. GreenTeaBagger
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    GreenTeaBagger - March 02, 2012 10:48 am
    The rent is to Damn High!
  12. steeline
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    steeline - March 02, 2012 10:12 am
    I would guess that there is a bit more than meets the eye regarding shutting down Wheat Montana. As far as rents go, the Free Market, (supply and demand) will prevail. Competion for tennants will tend to drive the lease rents down. Unless of course the landlords are tied into a "funny Money" loan and don't have wiggle room in their mortgage payments to offer lower rents. These landlords will dry on the vine and the market will redefine the value of their property and some other investor will pick up the property with adjusted capabilities to negotiate rents. I agree that historically Helena businesses have been "full retail" . That is, they put a price on a good or service and more or less say "take it or leave it". My experiences with buisinesses in other Montana towns has been related to "volume" sales. The businesses buy larger quantities of goods the provide better selection and with bulk purchases comes bulk discounts that can be passed on to the consumer. Helena has the potential to become a hub of commerce. However, the Helena "system" has a digresive mentality toward that end. As soon as we see creative optimism and business oriented folks in the drivers seat, Helena is doomed to get what you see today. Sad but true. We have to get America back.
  13. waterunderground
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    waterunderground - March 02, 2012 10:02 am
    I suspect that it was not a rent issue. Wheat Montana said in the article that they were trying for a short term lease. That indicates to me that they were not doing well and might have to close.
    Frankly I am not suprised if they were not doing well. They charged high prices for skimpy sandwiches. I eat out for lunch very often and prefer local places to national chains. After feeling like I paid too much and got too little from Wheat Montana I quit going there years ago.
    Did anybody have a different experience?
  14. dolphind3
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    dolphind3 - March 02, 2012 9:22 am
    JJ; The story does not say that the business was suffering at all, quit making crap up. The thing they needed to do was put the landlord name in the paper. It makes no sense to lose a viable renter
  15. Independent
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    Independent - March 02, 2012 9:11 am
    JSwede, what the heck does the City Commission need to "investigate"? News flash, as a land lord, I think rents are all to low, my rentes seem to think they are all too high. There your "investigation" is over. We meet in the middle and move on. I am 100% full right now cause I don't shoot for the moon.

    To the rest, I too am saddened to see a viable shop close. It's one I like to use. I hope the space stays empty. The owner may have someone else lined up. It's called free enterprize. We will all have to wait and see. Have a good day.
  16. Guancho
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    Guancho - March 02, 2012 8:42 am
    This is a real bummer. I really enjoyed that place.
  17. JeremiahJohnson
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    JeremiahJohnson - March 02, 2012 8:18 am
    @JSwede - I think the main thing that is keeping businesses from utilizing prime retail or commercial spots in this city is the fact that Helena citizens do not spend their money on eating out and shopping here. Obviously exceptions to every rule, but why do only the strongest or fool-proof retail or restaurant businesses survive here? Generally speaking, people here are tight with their money compared to cities where I've lived before. The landloard can be the scapegoat here, but I think it's in large part our fault for not supporting local businesses enough to keep the doors open. Maybe high rent, high prices and poor management play a role too in some cases.
  18. DeltaEpsilonKappa
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    DeltaEpsilonKappa - March 02, 2012 8:12 am
    That's it - run off yet another business that has helped the community with quality products.

    "Another one bites the dust
    Another one bites the dust
    And another one gone, and another one gone
    Another one bites the dust
    Hey, I'm gonna get you too
    Another one bites the dust"

    Helena is a JOKE! Attract business? Naw - we just drive em away. We don't have a business friendly attitude nor does it seem we are out there trying to lure business here. What business would want to come to Helena after seeing how many are leaving?

  19. TellTheTruth
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    TellTheTruth - March 02, 2012 8:02 am
    "there’s a good chance" he'll open another store... well, there's a "good chance" i'll win the lottery, doesn't mean it will happen.
    sorry to see another business go. seems like Helena is dying a slow death..




  20. skywatcher
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    skywatcher - March 02, 2012 8:01 am
    bummer...smooth move, landlord- I'd a thought you'd be happy to have any renter there- now it'll be interesting to sit back and see how long it stays vacant- if you never find another renter, it'll serve you right-
  21. JSwede
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    JSwede - March 02, 2012 2:03 am
    This story makes me wonder about the commercial property owners in Helena. I drive by prime retail spots that have been vacant for years - many on or near Montana Ave. and wonder what is keeping businesses from utilizing these spaces. This will be another loss. Can keeping these properties vacant really make economic sense? Perhaps this is an issue the Helena City Commissioners could investigate. Are the rents too high?
  22. freebsky
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    freebsky - March 02, 2012 1:24 am
    Attention Landlord: In case you live under a rock, Helena is CHOCK FULL of vacant commercial properties from shops, stores, & businesses going belly-up. Here you have a viable business that contributes to our town, and you are going to let them go. Take a look around, your commercial space will be vacant for years, just like countless others in Helena. It is better to have a bird in the hand than two in the bush.
    And to all the waif-thin, teenaged girls that Wheat Montana hires, LEARN HOW TO MAKE A SANDWICH!!!! Just because you only eat as much as a parakeet doesn't mean we do!! PUT some ingredients on those sandwiches!!!!

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