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Rob Smith and his wife, Gayle, are going from cars to bars.

On Tuesday, the Smiths bought Montana Chad’s at 3953 Montana Ave., from Ted Fink of Billings, who is retiring.

The Smiths plan on keeping the live band culture playing Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, events that can draw standing room only crowds.

“We’re going to continue with the country-western bands. We’re going to try to get bigger name bands,” Rob Smith said.

As a teenager, he started working at his father’s auto dealership and helped run the place for 30 years until his brother and son bought him out.

The couple said they had always wanted to be in the entertainment and food business.

“We really think Montana Chad’s has huge potential for growth and we are going to expand our marketing efforts to see that happens,” he said.

They have the expertise with Rob’s business background and Gayle’s skills in the local food and marketing scene.

Montana Chad’s and Fuddrucker’s have teamed up on a June “Helping Hands” poker run fundraiser that will bring at least 200 motorcyclists to town.

Betty Walker will continue to run Montana Chad’s kitchen. She cooked for 17 years at the old Windmill supper club at 3921 First Ave. S., which was torn down after it closed in 2005.

The bar has had a long life under many names: Iron Bull, The Drifter’s, Blazing Saddle and then Montana Chad’s.

Banking on the future

First Interstate Bank has started site preparation for another bank at the corner of King Avenue West and Shiloh Road. No artist’s rendering or construction schedule are available yet.

Stockman Bank’s newest full-service facility at Grand Avenue and 14th Street West opened Monday.

The area has a growing retail sector and lots of residents living north of Grand, said Wayne Nelson, president of Stockman Bank Billings.

But bank officials could not have fully predicted the recently announced development at West Park Promenade, including the coming of Lucky’s Farmers Market and apartments being built next to the mall along North 17th Street.

On top of a good location for a bank, the city of Billings is at “a critical mass for growth,” Nelson said.

“Some of these business moves, you have to plan 10 to 15 years down the road,” he said.

Spencer Frederick is the branch manager.

The last new Stockman bank in Billings opened in 2011 at Fourth and Broadway. Montana’s fifth-largest bank is opening a new Helena facility in June, which will end the current building spree, Nelson said.

Western Security Bank is remodeling and expanding its bank at the busy corner of Grand Avenue and 24th Street West, including building a larger drive-up facility to the west. The current drive-up will become the parking lot when the project is finished by the end of 2013.

A Western shout out

Wyoming horseman and teacher Buck Brannaman, who was raised near Norris, Mont., won the 2013 Western Horseman Award and is featured on the latest cover of Western Horseman.

The award, started in 2005, has honored eight horsemen so far, including Canadian musician/cowboy Ian Tyson.

Meanwhile, author Larry McMurtry, who wrote “Lonesome Dove,” is turning Brannaman’s book “The Faraway Horses,” into a screenplay for a movie.

The May issue also has an eight-page, beautifully photographed story about the Miles City Bucking Horse sale. That pure quill Montana event will be held May 18 and 19.

Business in the Bakken

The Stateline II natural gas processing facility 10 miles west of Williston, N.D., opened last week next to the first plant, Stateline I.

Oneok Partners, L.P., built the plants, which will nearly quadruple its gas processing capacity in the Williston Basin.

The company, based in Tulsa, Okla., also is building a 760-mile Bakken NGL Pipeline from southern Wyoming to Conway, Kan., as well as a pipeline in Texas.

Natural gas production has doubled in the Bakken since 2005, but more than one-third is wasted, mostly through flaring, because of a lack of pipeline capacity to the wellheads, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

North Dakota’s record is far worse than the rest of the country.

In 2009, less than 1 percent of the country’s natural gas production was flared or vented, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said another 6,000 wells may be drilled in the next three years in western North Dakota, which has 8,202 producing wells.

The state with the Bakken’s sweet spot could see another 40,000 wells drilled over two decades.

Out and about

The rumor that Macy’s is coming to town has been around for about six years, but developer Steve Corning is skeptical.

“I don’t think they are coming into the market in the near term,” he said. “We were talking to them for Shiloh Crossing, but once we made the Scheels deal, there wasn’t room for them.”

The department chain isn’t expanding. Last year, Marcy’s opened seven stores, but closed eight.

Lewistown manufacturer Spika Welding & Manufacturing Inc., has landed a U.S. Army contract worth about $1 million. Spika will build 100 work platforms used by maintenance workers for the UH-72 Lakota helicopter.

The Northern International Livestock Exposition is searching for a general manager now that Justin Mills is leaving to return to ranching in Wyoming.

Scams du jour

Jan Mork of Billings received an email from Bank of America warning her that “All activity on your account has been deactivated.”

But neither Jan nor her husband have any BofA charge cards, so Mork refused to open the email.

The “Hi, grandma, bail me out of jail” con call reached Donna Meier of Billings recently and she said the voice almost sounded like one of her granddaughters with laryngitis. But Meier had read about this ruse.

“I told her, ‘Grandparents get these calls from time to time and they are scams,’ ” Meier said. “Bang went the phone.”

Then she called her granddaughter, who was living well in Seattle, not in jail in Niagara Falls like the caller claimed.

If you lost money to a scam promising free government grants, the Federal Trade Commission may have a refund. The FTC is providing $1.7 million to nearly 23,000 customers who were defrauded by about 30 individual and corporate defendents. To learn more, go to

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Business editor for the Billings Gazette.