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Bad timing may be to blame for the pending closures of Pacific Galleries Antique Mall and an adjoining store, Belongings Furniture & Accessories on Feb. 15.

The Great Falls store opened a year earlier than the Billings store at 1313 Broadwater Ave., and Billings never caught up in sales.

"It's just basically the economy. With us being new we were being supported by the sales in Great Falls and Seattle," said store manager Polly Taggart. "We were the low man on the totem pole and needed six months to a year to come into our own."

The Billings antique mall opened two years ago after Pacific Galleries of Seattle completed a major renovation of the vacant former Gibson's discount store. Belongings opened last March.

"This has been a difficult decision and was not made lightly, and we are sorry that we can no longer remain open in Billings," said Lynn Kenyon, chief operating officer of Pacific Galleries.

Both Billings stores were in their infancy and the global economic crash forced the company to abandon the stores with the most negative cash flow, Kenyon said.

Until closing, the stores will offer savings of 60 percent with up to 70 percent on fine antiques. The Billings stores will be open seven days a week until mid-February. The stores employed seven people who now are looking for work, including Taggart.

After the sale ends, the remaining inventory will be shipped to the Great Falls store at 901 Ninth St. N.

"It's going to be a big loss for Billings because of the loss of a great shopping destination. People come and spend two hours or so," Taggart said.

Meanwhile, dozens of small vendors who rented space from Pacific Galleries to sell antiques or Montana gifts will be without a home.

Judy Trenka, owner of the Montana Gift Shop by Sunsilks, is one of the displaced dealers who opened a gift shop in July 2007.

"To my knowledge, there will be 100 vendors, including me, displaced. It's a wonderful place," Trenka said.

An alternative location is in the works for the business Trenka started in 1983, but she said she couldn't release any details yet.

Antique auctions are a major part of Pacific Galleries sales, Trenka said, yet the city of Billings would not allow auctions at the Broadwater location without an expensive addition.

"They needed to build a $100,000 firewall to do auctions there," she said.

Trenka said she hoped someone will buy the building, so these vendors can continue to operate together out of the Broadwater location.

Contact Jan Falstad at jfalstad@billingsgazette.com or 657-1306.

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