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By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

The Beauty's in the Details

Mary's Mercantile Opens on Front Street


November 13, 2019

A.J. Etherington / The Courier

Mary Helland (l) speaks to a guest about her new store, Mary's Mercantile on Front Street on Nov. 1. Helland spent the last few years renovating the building and preparing it for just this moment.

Anyone who knows Mary Helland understands why she took on the challenge of renovating a hundred-plus-year-old building on Front Street in Glasgow. Mostly, it is because she loves the history of it. She sees the details of the past and appreciates them to the present. So, when the opportunity to buy up the old Stan's Saloon building – the one nestled between the Montana Bar and the abandoned Johnny's Cafe with the dilapidated roof and all but destroyed interior – she took it. Not because of the opportunity she saw in its future, but because of the beauty she saw in its past.

Now, over two years later, Helland has opened for business, and her shop – Mary's Mercantile – is full of the same attention to detail and love of history that ignited her passion in the first place. As you walk in you are greeted by a myriad of accents and elements that harken back to a finer age, one where quality and craftsmanship meet form and function. An age where the quality of work was matched by the quality of people.

Details like the old 1930's bar complete with the bar back and chair rails. The renovated hardwood floors, the brick fireplaces and the original Great Northern Railcar Accents, which include the luggage racks and arched stain-glass windows which accent the building's rustic and 19th century charm. The crux of the project may have been passion, but Helland has a plan for turning the store into a profitable venture for the community.

One of the functions is as an event venue. Under the current layout, the building can contain up to a 100 guests all seated at a long banquet-style arrangement with fine place settings complete with polished silver cutlery and fine china.

"That's the idea," said Helland, "is to create a an elegant event space." One, she adds, that pays attention to the finer details and "raises the bar" for events and quality in Glasgow. "They always say, 'The greater the risk, the greater the reward,'" added Helland while gesturing to the investment she had worked so hard to create.

With an industrial kitchen in the works – and almost complete – Helland hopes patrons will either utilize the in-house capabilities for catering or will bring in food from other establishments depending on their wishes. Either way the ability to choose is theirs and the space to entertain is both spacious and elegant.

"I wanted to build a space where people can be inspired," reiterated Helland emphasizing her passion for the building's character and elevated charm. She added "And gather to be social away from social media."

Aside from the event venue, the building will be a mercantile. Shelves and tables display antique nicknacks, old toys and period details such as antique fishing lures and rustic statues. A display of Scottie tartan hats, scarves and fedoras occupies an entire table to itself. Helland intends to sell her own collection of assorted antiques and gifts, but to also rent out time and space within the store for bakers, soup makers, artisans and craftsmen to display and sell their works. In that way the store will be a collection of merchant goods and locally produced baked goods and food.

One such offering will be a high-quality coffee, but no espresso because as Helland puts it, "That's already being done here [in Glasgow]." So, she is looking forward to serving a french-pressed "really high-quality coffee." Helland is also looking to sell ice cream and old-fashioned milk shakes.

In total, construction started three years ago, although not all of it had been spent working on the project. Originally, Helland had started by acquiring the building and clearing the title, which she says took some time due to the tax and debt liens held against the then-dilapidated building. As a result, she immediately fixed the roof to try and protect the building's interior as best she could and then started clearing off the building's liens. That process took the better part of the year but she eventually made it happen.

Once she owned the property free and clear, she went to work. At first she started clearing the place out and patching holes in the walls and floors. Then she had Bill McLeod put in and align the tin ceiling.

"I was just walking by the front of the shop out there and I had these tin panels and Bill walked by," said Mary recalling the story. "And I said, 'Bill, do you think we can get you out of retirement to do this project?'" Helland said he was noncommittal at first but eventually came back and agreed. She was thankful for his skill as she showed off how straight and clean the panels had been installed across the length of the building.

The bulk of the contract work had been performed by Jim Melikian and consumed the last two years of both Helland's and Melikian's life. Working in segments they patched floors, plastered the walls, finished the wood work and details, hung lights, fixed and added plumbing and added an entire commercial grade kitchen. An additional room around the kitchen will replicate a vintage rail dining car that she is looking to have hand painted with the fine details of the original Great Northern cars.

"If you don't like a train, you don't like nothin'," joked Helland as she showed off a few other railcar details. The train details are only part of the building's new charm. Old photographs of settler wives and poker games that, allegedly, ended in shootouts as well as taxidermy and elements that contain rich backstories and histories that enhance the atmosphere.

Smiling and looking around at the collection of three years of effort Helland pauses and states, "There are so many great stories in here."


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