Spence Erwin was a bit worried a few weeks ago that the first Steak ’n Shake diner in Billings wouldn’t be ready to go. But the building has been turned over to him, the furniture, fixtures and dishes are in and he’s hired most of the 130 people needed to open one of the restaurants in the Illinois chain that started 80 years ago.
“We’re getting all of our inspections and will be training our staff all next week,” Erwin said. “We’re looking pretty good.”
Erwin and his wife, Mary Catherine, are opening the first Steak ’n Shake diner in Montana in the Sapphire Subdivision off King Avenue West and Shiloh Road. They also purchased the rights to build two more in the state.
The 1950s diner will hold its grand opening from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Dec. 5.
Legos to go
Lego lovers now have a Billings retail store to shop that sells new, used and individual pieces of the popular construction toys.
After Labor Day, Kevin Woods said goodbye to his information technology job at Wells Fargo and opened Bricks & Minifigs (mini figures) at 1911 King Ave. W., Suite 9, next to Bruno’s Italian Restaurant.
“I was ready to be done being plugged into the phone for a huge corporation and wanted to be my own boss,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to work in a Lego store. I’m approaching 40 and nobody had started one.”
As a kid, Woods loved the building blocks, and when Lego came out with its Star Wars collection 15 years ago, he became a collector.
Woods’ store is a franchise and
the next nearest store is in Oregon, 900 miles away.
Lego worldwide sales tripled last year, compared to 2007, even though a small box of new plastic blocks can cost $60. But Woods said this product that’s been around for 60 years is a better value than similarly-priced video games that kids sometimes quit after two weeks.
“They’ve twice been named toy of the century,” he said. “The only other toy that’s on par with Lego is Barbie.”
Turkey Day costs dip
Thanksgiving dinner this year costs an average of 44 cents less than last year, or $49.04 to feed 10 people.
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 28th price survey found that a 16-pound turkey costs $21.76 on average or 47 cents cheaper than 2012.
The price survey includes a meal of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery appetizers and a desert of whipped cream and pumpkin pie, with coffee and milk.
In Montana, turkey costs $1.49 per pound, compared to the national average of $1.36 per pound.
In case you missed it, last week Butterball announced it had a shortage of large, fresh turkeys this year due to the birds not gaining weight, so the company only shipped half as many. This doesn’t apply to frozen turkeys or other company’s brands.
Out and about
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Stan Hoggatt and Suzie French-Hoggatt, who used to operate Touch of Santa Fe store on North Broadway in downtown Billings, have opened an online store. She was raised in New Mexico, fell in love with Southwestern artwork and wants to continue selling Native American art, jewelry and other original products. She uses the Touch of Santa Fe name on the homepage, but the website is www.nezperce.com.
Reynolds Market is opening a 47,500-square-foot grocery store and several other businesses at Sidney’s new 22-acre commercial shopping center called Fox Run.
The Houston-based hamburger chain Fuddruckers has opened a restaurant in Williston, N.D., on Highway 2. Cousins Gurhan and Celal Adali are building a Fuddruckers in Minot and bought the rights to build four more.
With the holidays approaching, be careful around your home because the pressures and distractions of entertaining can lead to accidents and disasters.
A four-year analysis of claims by Allstate found that fire is the key holiday hazard, especially from candles, turkey fryers and fireworks around New Year’s Eve. Before the holidays, you should replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure that family members can locate and use fire extinguishers.
By the numbers
If you want to dive into how the different economies across the Western U.S. are really performing, Headwaters Economics has created two new databases. You can access this nonpartisan, research organization’s new regional summary and interactive atlas at headwaterseconomics.org
$10,000: Amount AAA has given away in separate grants of $1,000 to 10 rural and volunteer fire departments. Two grants were in Eastern Montana and went to the Blue Creek Volunteer Fire Department in Billings and the St. Labre Volunteer Fire Department.
43 million: Number of Americans who will travel at least 50 miles away from home for Thanksgiving. The AAA said that would be a decrease of 1.5 percent from last year. Travel is expected to decrease in Montana and Wyoming as well. Meanwhile, gas prices at their lowest level in three years for Thanksgiving 2013.
Scams du jour
Montana-Dakota Utilities is warning about a scam that is making the rounds where callers threaten to cut off service unless you pay your utility bill immediately over the phone. If you receive one, hang up and report the call to MDU at 800-638-3278. Remember not to give out any personal account information to anyone who calls you.
If you want to help victims of the dozen tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest last Sunday or some of the 4 million left homeless in the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan two weeks ago, be smart about your gifts.
The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to first research the charities and donate only to the ones you know and trust. Beware of someone offering prizes, and never send cash. You should also ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser.
These are some of the top sites to check out a company: Better Business Bureau, Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or GuideStar.
Also, the Better Business Bureau said consumers are reporting calls from “Willis Auto Center” asking them to divulge personal information. Willis claims it is a Helena-based truck dealership that is selling a semitrailer truck for a cheap price, but the local address given is bogus.
Where do boats go when they get sick? The dock.
What caused the airline to go bankrupt? Runway inflation.
What kind of bed does the mermaid sleep in? A waterbed.