Bagel fans despondent over losing their downtown Billings shop can look forward to another taking its place.

Great American Bagel is expanding into the former Grand Bagel spot at 3012 Fourth Ave. N. in the first week of February, owner John L. Smith said.

Smith also owns the Great American Bagel at 327 S. 24th St. W., which will remain open, he said.

Smith owns Montana’s only Great American Bagel franchises, and he’s hoping to grow the Chicago-based brand into other cities, such as Bozeman.

“It’s an opportunity. I’m a go-getter. I want to continue to expand,” said Smith, a Billings resident who bought the West End eatery last spring.

Great American Bagel has wholesale accounts with downtown businesses, which will help the Fourth Avenue North store, he said.

Smith said he’s repainting the inside of the store, adding new flooring and installing new equipment. He’s investing more than $30,000 to reopen the shop.

Grand Bagel, which was operating as Bagels Inc., shut down its two locations in December. The spot at 2135 Grand Ave. remains vacant.

Dress shop settling into West End

Barbara Wells is discovering that a brick-and-mortar storefront on Billings West End is a better home for her dress shop.

Wells opened her Montana Dress Co., at 1005 24th St. W. last spring, after operating from her pink van.

“It’s been great because people want to come to Billings to shop because of all the choices. It’s been advantageous to be in one place,” Wells of Billings said last week.

About a year ago she launched the boutique, saying her specialty was low-cost, stylish prom dresses, aimed at teens she felt had to spend too much for formal events. She traveled to Bozeman, Miles City and Northern Wyoming in her pink van.

Wells made new contacts while taking her shop on the road to smaller communities in Eastern Montana, but the grind also wore her down. In her new 1,500-square-foot space, Wells said she has a strong presence for rural Montana and Wyoming residents.

Her biggest competition is online, but Wells says her store has a key advantage.

“It’s an opportunity to have a choice to touch and to feel, and to walk out (with the dress after the purchase). And you know what you’re getting,” Wells said.

Montana Dress Co. carries Alyce, Paris, Adrianna, Papell and Alex Evening brands. All dresses are new, and prices range from $37 to $380, Wells said. Plus and missy sizes are also available.

The store started with mostly prom dresses but has expanded to include formal fundraisers, cruises and other formal events.

Montana Dress Co is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is 969-3777.

New spot for Billings school-supply store

Owner Tamara Spillum is moving her education-materials shop, The Yellow Bus, to a new spot on Billings West End at the end of February.

The Yellow Bus is now at 670 King Park Dr. and will relocate to 712 Carbon St., a few blocks away. Spillum said the new 3,500-square-foot spot is a better deal and a more visible location.

The Yellow Bus began seven years ago selling school supplies, educational games and toys and other items to teachers and home-school educators.

Spillum, a teacher at Billings School District 2, has five employees and said she hopes to boost drive-by traffic at the new space.

The Yellow Bus is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 656-4300. The website is www.theyellowbusmt.com.

Dividend from First Interstate

Shareholders of First Interstate BancSystem will receive a dividend of 24 cents per share, payable Feb. 10, the Billings-based bank announced Thursday.

The dividend will be paid to shareholders of record as of Jan. 30 and represents a 9 percent increase from dividends paid a year ago.

First Interstate is Montana’s largest native bank with branches in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Haikus from the valley

Hail to the new Chief

Much different from the old

New era begins

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Business reporter for The Billings Gazette.