Georgia native Spencer “Spence” Erwin and his wife, Mary Catherine Erwin, came to Montana to ski and wound up moving here.
Now the couple and some family investors are opening Montana’s first Steak ‘n Shake diner just south of the Verizon Cellular Plus store in the Sapphire Subdivision off King Avenue West and Shiloh Road.
“It’s family food. It’s a superior milk shake. Everything is fresh, in terms of nonprocessed,” he said.
During high school in Rome, Ga., Spence Erwin worked for the restaurant chain, which started nearly 80 years ago and now has 500 restaurants across the South and Midwest. Except for Las Vegas, there are no Steak ‘n Shake diners north or west of Colorado, he said.
When another owner bought the company and started offering franchises, the Erwins jumped in, buying three in Montana. The $1.5 million Billings restaurant, including the land, will open first. Next year, the Erwins hope to open diners in Bozeman and Missoula.
Langlas & Associates should start work by mid-July and complete the 3,500-square-foot 1950s diner with a drive-through window in October.
The chain specializes in ground steak burgers and hand-made milk shakes, plus salads, soups and chicken. A dozen specialty items under $4 will be offered on a daily menu board. Eventually, the Billings restaurant will be open 24 hours a day.
The Erwins live in Gallatin Gateway and this is their first major food venture.
New life for old site
Last week, Laughlin Construction Inc., of Billings tore down the China Express building at 1438 Grand Ave. Before its Chinese food days, the site housed a Burger King restaurant, according to the city building department.
On Thursday, a Sanderson Stewart employee was surveying the narrow, but deep, site between the Frame Hut and United Blood Services.
The city of Billings demolition permit lists the land’s owner as Rehberg Ranch Land & Livestock. No building permit has been filed yet, so its future use is unknown.
FedEx plans hit town
A large roll of building plans for FedEx’s transportation hub at Gabel and Hesper roads showed up Thursday in the Billings building department.
The 8-inch roll outlining plans for five buildings on the 97-acre site was submitted by Zirkelbach Construction Co. of Palmetto, Fla., which is south of Tampa. Zirkelbach’s website also lists a regional office in Roberts.
Last fall, longtime friends Debbie Dryer and Maureen “Mo” Turpin opened a women’s consignment clothing store in the former Raffia space at 1739 Grand Ave.
They are having fun and the clothing for women of all ages is selling well, Turpin said.
“I have a 3-year-old who comes in here often, who is a ‘fashionista,’ ” Turpin said.
Out and about
The American Cable Association, representing smaller cable operators, is warning about what it calls the end run around the country’s rules generally prohibiting newspapers from owning TV stations in the same markets. Last week, Gannett announced it is spending $2.2 billion to buy another media company, Belo. The ACA said this latest media consolidation doubles the number of TV stations that Gannett will own. With 43 stations, Gannett will have a “virtual duopoly” in some cities, an ownership concentration that the Federal Communications Commission should examine, the CAC said in a Daily Clips article.
The fresh fruit sale of produce picked and flash frozen in the Oregon orchards runs until June 25 this year, although Karen Burroughs of Billings is willing to fudge that deadline by a few days. If you are interested, call 406-256-8167.
If you like dinos and don’t mind dirty hands, sign up for Dawson Community College’s dinosaur paleontology class and lab from July 22-Aug. 2 in Glendive.
Albertsons has eliminated the loyalty cards that shoppers had to carry to get sales prices. On Wednesday, the grocery chain posted a notice on its website: “The card isn’t so special anymore. Everyone had one. So we want to take the special step of not requiring one anymore.”
Points (finally) pay off
Loyalty to Diet Coke is being rewarded in Billings.
One couple has cashed in on a soda pop addiction and an amazing example of computer patience.
“She, of course, drinks caffeine-free Diet Coke like it’s water,” said Craig McKinney, who teaches keyboarding at Shepherd Junior High.
“My job was to drink the Coke. His job was to enter the points. We were a team,” said Lyn McKinney, a librarian at Billings Senior High.
For two years, Craig dutifully entered all the numbers from his wife’s Coke purchases into a company rewards website. Then he decided to enter all 3,500 points in one contest offering two free airline tickets. First, they did an Internet check to verify that ePrize — the company handling Coke’s contest — was legitimate.
After ePrize sent them an email saying they may have won, they had to list their Social Security numbers on a form and FedEx it back to meet the deadline.
They did win and the prize was a pair of e-tickets that are good until May 2014. The McKinneys are thinking about flying to Florida for Christmas.
“I just want people to know it pays to drink Coke in a Pepsi town,” Lyn said, with a laugh. “I love the Dimichs (owners of the Pepsi plant), but I like Coke better.”
Scams du jour
A Laurel woman received a call recently from a man claiming to work for DISH Network. He wanted to come out to her house and check the quality of work that had been done on her cable television system.
Sensing a scam, she refused.
A DISH employee in Texas said the only time their technicians come out to someone’s home is to install or repair equipment.
Meanwhile, to help prevent financial exploitation of the elderly, remember these three tips from the Better Business Bureau and Western Union:
1. Never wire money to someone you haven’t met face to face.
2. Wait several days after depositing a check before spending the money to allow time for the funds to clear the bank.
3. Watch out for telephone calls from alleged relatives demanding money because they’ve been arrested. Always call the family member first to check out the story.
Did you ever wonder why:
If flying is so safe, why do they call it the airport terminal?
The man who invests all your money is called a broker?
“Abbreviated” is such a long word?