Flathead Wholesale Grocery

Minnesota merchant brothers Tom, John, and William Elliott moved to Kalispell in 1911, after buying James Conlon’s successful mercantile. They expanded into the wholesale grocery business in 1914, building this two-story brick warehouse near the Great Northern Railway tracks. The solid, practical building is designed to hold thousands of pounds of goods. Interior posts and beams helped support the weight; the main floor originally had about 7,500 square feet filled with shelves for dry storage. A small enclosed office sat on the west end of the building. The Elliotts stored perishable goods, including barrels of vinegar, canned fruits and vegetables, and molasses, in the basement to protect them from temperature fluctuations. A freight elevator ran from the basement to a second-story balcony shipping room. The elevator was designed for loads of up to 3,000 pounds, but as one enthusiastic reporter explained, since its motor was “capable of lifting 7,000 pounds . . . an extra case of pork and beans would hardly stall it.” The Elliotts purchased local produce, like potatoes, for export by rail. They also imported a wide range of groceries that they sold to area retailers. Rail cars traveled from the main line on a spur line built specifically to bring goods to the warehouse. At one time, a rear loading platform angled to align with the rail line, easing the transfer of merchandise from the boxcars to the wholesale grocery. Although the tracks and the loading platform have long since been removed, the warehouse remains, reflecting the importance of the Great Northern Railway to early Kalispell commerce.

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5 First Avenue East, Kalispell, Montana ~ Private