TRACY — Two things are typically staples of small town Montana: a bar and a church. In the town of Tracy several miles southeast of Great Falls, those two buildings are just feet away from each other. But that hasn't always been the case.
This particular church building, known as St. Jane Frances Church, was actually moved from Highwood its current location in the 1980s. It sat empty until someone with a big dream and a heart for her community came along and transformed it into Fireweed Mercantile.
“Fireweed is a plant that grows in the mountains in burned out places and I wanted to try to make something beautiful out of something that was kind of old, forgotten,” explained owner Molly Wilson.
Walk through the doors of Fireweed Mercantile, and beauty representing past and present is all around, from crosses to an old school sign.
"I just felt like there needs to be another spark here. Let’s just start something and see where it goes. I don't know, I like to start stuff,” laughed Wilson.
Wilson's love of community sparked the idea to keep her small community going, and she created the one-stop shop along a rural road.
“Really cool to see how many different things just people in the area have brought in to sell here,” Wilson said.
She's provided a place to show off people's creativity. Fireweed is an ever-present farmers market of sorts for vendors of all kinds, from saddle makers to lotion makers.
"I wanted to have some groceries, that was kind of important,” Wilson explained.
She carries produce from Sand Coulee-area farmers such as the Big Stone and Hilltop Hutterite colonies, and features other ag products from places like Eden Feeds and Wheat Montana.
Purchased in 2020 and opened in the fall of 2021, Fireweed is a product of the pandemic and although small and locally focused, hasn't been immune to supply chain issues and price hikes.
“I do feel it with some stuff because you can’t buy potato chips locally, or at least I don’t know how. And we’re not even big enough yet that I can buy them in bulk. That kind of stuff is hard, it’s a little bit of a loss for us, but I want to have that here and I want to have it at a reasonable price,” Wilson explained.
Her focus on community extends beyond what's on the store shelves. Wilson’s other day job as a music teacher also show up in the shop as Fireweed plays host to music lessons.
"We also called it Fireweed Hall and Mercantile so it’s also available to use for visiting, for a little birthday party. We do concerts every once in a while, we start a little Bingo night,” said Wilson.
It's also a place where you can pick up a book or rent a movie. From art classes to produce, Wilson’s mission culminates at Fireweed.
“I hope that there continues to be just another place open in the community,” said Wilson.
Wilson is always looking for new vendors and hopes to start selling hay soon. She’s also starting a community garden right next to the building.
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