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Dumping downtown

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Two perennial Best of Missoula businesses are ditching downtown. On Nov. 22, 2005, Nap’s Grill—for three consecutive years voted Missoula’s Best Hamburger by Independent readers—closed its location on Front Street. That didn’t stop the Hamilton-based burger joint from getting the nod a couple weeks ago in the other paper’s semi-invisible Missoula’s Choice contest, though we couldn’t helpnoticing that Nap’s downtown demise failed to merit a mention.

Nap’s owner Kip Zsupnik says the call to leave Missoula was “purely a financial decision.” He cites a “combination of very high overhead…and not enough volume,” and in particular “NorthWestern Energy’s gas prices.” Zsupnik says there are no current plans to come back to Missoula, though he invited us to “send readers down to Hamilton,” a trek his Hamilton manager reports that diehards have been making for the past several months.

Patrons of Bike Doctor—the Best of Missoula bike shop winner every year this decade, currently located at 420 N. Higgins Ave.—won’t have to go nearly as far as Nap’s faithful; Bike Doctor is moving just west of downtown, to a new building at the corner of Toole and Scott streets. As motivation for the move, Marlana Kosky, co-owner of Bike Doctor, cites a desire to own the shop’s location, and admits that “downtown is getting too expensive.”

Kosky and co-owner Eric Cline have bigger plans than just a renovated home for their new location. According to Kosky, an outdoor area will be converted to a closed test-ride track, including dirt jumps; future improvements may include the addition of outdoor seating. But first, the bike doctors will need to complete renovations in time for a planned move-in date at the end of February.

As for the move’s impact on customers, Kosky isn’t concerned: “Yeah, it’s really cool to be downtown, but three-quarters of a mile isn’t going to make a difference.” Cline, citing the amenities planned for the new location, suggests that “what’s good for us is good for our customers.”

And the move is no reason to start sweating the competition, either. Says Kosky: “I’ve never worried about our Best of Missoula status.”

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