Customers flocked to the Blackfeet Nation’s first tribal owned grocery store, Glacier Family Foods, on opening day April 4, reported the greatfallstribune.com. For years, only one grocery was available in the small town of Browning, Montana, and residents often made the trek to Great Falls or Kalispell to restock their pantries and freezers.
The tribe partially funded the $7.5 million grocery store, estimated Emerald “Beep” Grant, store general manager, with a government-guaranteed bond that the tribe expects to be repaid in 15 years. In addition, oil and gas revenue helped the tribe make a down payment to secure a loan that will cover about 25 percent of the project’s costs.
“The Blackfeet Tribe owns this store, so I own a share and every tribal member does, too,” said Grant, who has worked in the grocery business for 20 years. “If you’re not a tribal member, but part of the community this is your store, too. Every savings I can pass on, you’ll get.”
A separate, limited liability corporation will manage the new 28,000-square-foot grocery.
Fifty-six people work at Glacier Family Foods, and management hopes to add health care benefits in the near future, Grant told the newspaper.
The store features Western Food products and a large produce section, including “really fresh fruit and vegetables, with a lot of variety,” produce manager Rick Flammond said. “And our prices are like those at the Great Falls Walmart, but with shorter aisles.”
A deli serves chicken, fish, soup and sandwiches, and customers can leisurely enjoy their meals at tables by a fire place.
Separate entrances at the front of the grocery lead to a satellite casino of the tribe’s main Glacier Peaks Casino, located on the north side of town. The smaller outpost offers poker, keno and bingo slot machines.