Tech giant Google has expanded its online consumer delivery service, aimed at rival Amazon, into the Billings area.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company announced last week that Google Express is coming to large portions of the Northwest and Southeast, including four Montana cities, to deliver items from Costco and other retail partners.

Here’s how it works: Customers go to the Google Express website or smart phone app, then compile a list of items per store above minimum charge (usually $15 but sometimes $35 at some stores.)

The items will then be compiled into an order at the store and shipped within two days through FedEx, UPS or another service, according to Google officials.

"Our goal with Google Express is to offer a great shopping experience and connect people with their favorite stores,” Brian Elliott, the service’s manager, said in a written statement.

Along with Costco, participating retailers in the Billings area include PetSmart, Walgreens, Kohl’s and Toys R Us.

Google officials said they will explore expanding the service to other cities. Customers can enter their zip code on the Google Express site to see whether they’re eligible.

Google Express shoppers may choose a $95 annual membership fee or pay a minimum charge of $4.99 per delivery. Tech industry analysts say the pricing is aimed at fighting Amazon’s Prime program, which offers free shipping and other services for $99 per year.

This latest expansion allows Google Express to cover about 90 percent of the country, according to TechCrunch, an industry blog.

Google is the second major Silicon Valley tech company to expand in Montana this year. In August, Uber launched its ride-share service in Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Great Falls.

Heights construction starting

Construction of a new Hardee’s fast-food restaurant in Billings Heights is under way at 548 Main St.

A building permit was issued for the $359,055 structure on Oct. 7, according to city records.

Lisa Thomas of Lund Brown Group is listed as franchisee in city records. Idaho-based Radix Construction is building the facility, which is expected to open in early 2017.

The restaurant would be the third Hardee’s in Billings. The other two are downtown and on the West End.

About a block away, construction is also moving forward on a new Town Pump gas station, restaurant and casino at 450 Main St. It’s going in place of Reiter’s Marina, which was recently demolished.

New South Side tire store

Over on Billings South Side, construction of a new 18,975-square-foot Hi-Mile tire store is underway.

Workers have started clearing the site at 3604 Belknap Ave. behind the Vegas Hotel for the new $1.75 million building.

The Billings City Council granted the owners of Hi-Mile, Utah-based Quality Tire, four variances in September involving curb width, a public right-of-way and other project details.

Hi-Mile currently operates at 4318 State Ave. in Billings.

Bike shop expanding 

The Spoke Shop at 1910 Broadwater Ave., is expanding its service shop.

The shop’s owners announced on their Facebook page they broke ground on the $48,000 expansion.

A completion date has not been announced. The Spoke Shop will remain open during construction.

Bernina top exec visiting  

Fans of Bernina sewing machines will have a chance Tuesday to meet the owner of the company.

Hanspeter Ueltschi, fourth-generation owner of Aurora, Ill.-based Bernina of America, will be at the Billings dealer at 1505 Rehberg Lane from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Attendees can meet Ueltschi, get their sewing machines autographed and win prizes.

Bernina is a high-end sewing machine brand launched in Switzerland a century ago.

Call the Billings store at 406-656-4999 for more information.

Wyndstone celebrated in Billings Heights

Supporters of the Wyndstone assisted-living apartments celebrated a long-awaited grand opening and ribbon-cutting last week in the Heights.

The 83-unit complex on Wicks Lane past Billings Skyview High School includes a pool, gym, restaurant-style dining, a chapel, a workout room and 24-hour access to emergency response. 

Wyndstone also has 51 independent-living units, which were 59 percent occupied nearly a month before the official opening, sid Kevin Side, executive director of Mission Ridge at St. John's Lutheran Ministries, which operates the facility.

The $17 million Wyndstone is a partnership between St. John, St. Vincent Healthcare and Atonement Lutheran Church. Planning for the project began nearly 15 years ago, and workers broke ground in 2014.

Dick Anderson Construction of Billings was the general contractor.

Scams du jour

The Billings Chamber of Commerce is warning that scammers are posing as chamber representatives to fraudulently collect membership dues over the phone.

Chamber officials note they do accept payments by the phone, and members are welcome to call back and verify calls. The chamber will make every effort to initiate calls from its main line, 406-245-4111.

Also, legitimate calls will come from the chamber’s membership team: Jennifer Reiser, Rene Beyl, Megan Stevenson, Kevin Cremer, Jessica Hart or Michele Flanagan.

Members are also welcome to stop by the chamber’s main office at 815 S. 27th St., to make payments in person.

Speaking of scams, the Better Business Bureau released its list of common schemes in the fall and winter.

They include:

• The handyman scam. Someone shows up at the front door, offering seasonal services for pay up front. Often, they won’t come back.

• Storm season. The BBB receives complaints every year about unqualified contractors who chase storms with the promise of work that is often shoddy and incomplete.

• Charity cheaters. Be wary of people knocking on the door soliciting money for a charity, particularly if they demand on-the-spot payments. Reputable charities accept donations at any time.

• Cold threats. During cold months, scammers may pose as utility representatives and threaten to shut off power for unpaid bills. They’ll often seek payment by credit card, pre-paid debit cards or cash.

Haikus from the valley

Driving the South Side

The lingering aroma

Sugar beet harvest

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