In the South Third Street warehouse known as the Hive, Missoula's wintertime farmers market finally seemed to have found a home. Previous attempts to complement the city's trio of summer markets with an off-season indoor equivalent had all fizzled, but the Missoula Winter Public Market—as it's been named the last two years—was buzzing. Manager Franco Salazar says the relative success, including the switch to a weekly schedule, showed that the winter market was on its way to becoming a community staple.
Then, in September, two months before the market's third season was set to begin, Salazar got word that they would have to move. The news wasn't a complete surprise. Missoula International School announced it was buying the Hive property last December with plans to construct a new school on the site. Still, it was a setback.
"I was not feeling very hopeful," board member Pam Walzer says.
The challenge, however, turned out to be an opportunity. In the last month, the market got a new name, tweaked its hours (now 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), and secured an amenity no previous winter market has been able to boast: a downtown location. Starting Nov. 12 and running Saturdays through April 15, the Missoula Valley Winter Market will take place inside the Hellgate Elks Lodge at 112 N. Pattee St. The market will be set up on the main floor with vendors spread throughout the foyer, bar area and ballroom.
"I think it's actually really good," Salazar says of the change. "The location is probably one of the better locations in town."
Salazar says the market was able to rent the space for only slightly more than it was paying at the Hive, though the lodge can't hold quite as many vendors. He expects the Missoula Valley Winter Market to host between 30 and 35 local agriculture, arts and crafts vendors each week, as well as live music. (By comparison, the Clark Fork Market, which Salazar manages during the summer, hosts 110 vendors.)
Meanwhile, other aspects of the Hive transition remain unsettled. Last month the Missoula International School unveiled plans to break ground on its new school facility at the site in 2017, while the city continues work on a feasibility study to determine whether it makes sense to lease space from the new International School for a public community center. Another former Hive tenant, the Missoula Skate Club, has yet to announce a new venue.