By Amy Pearson

In 1880, Mose Kaufman moved to Fort Benton from New York City. A decade later he moved to Great Falls. In 1894, he opened Kaufman’s Menswear Center downtown at 218 Central Avenue. Since that time, Kaufman’s has moved up and down Central a total of nine times but has lived at its current location of 411 Central Ave since 1976.

In 1962, Mose’s grandson Ike assumed leadership of the store from his father Ira and uncle Fred. Ike ran the family business for over fifty years, in addition to serving as a widely
respected community leader for organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Great Falls, and the Uptown Optimist Club. His wife Mary Ann ran the formalwear department upstairs for twenty years.

“My father is an icon,” says Brian Kaufman, the fourth- generation owner of the store. “He was in every group and on every board. He is kind of a living legend.”
Brian joined the family legacy at Kaufman’s in the summer of 1994. After graduating from CM Russell High School, he attended Montana State University where he studied business management and played as an offensive lineman for the Cats.

“My dad’s attitude was that I should go out in the world to learn lessons from someone else,” Brian notes. But after five years managing and setting up stores for Copeland Sports across Nevada and California, Brian was ready to come home. He missed his family and the Rocky Mountain Front out of Benchmark where the family has a cabin. In 1997, Brian was named president of the store.

Just like his father and the two generations preceding him, Brian has seen some ups and downs over the last thirty years of his tenure overseeing operations at Kaufman’s. He recalls that the 90s were a period of good business for downtown Great Falls. The housing crash of 2008 provoked some years of hardship and recovery. And of course, the Covid pandemic was a challenging period of uncertainty and change with lingering challenges in the sense that it is still harder to obtain some products.

“Each generation has embraced the good times and endured the hard times,” Brian says. “We do what we do, come good or bad. We just keep doing what we do.”

Brian notes that there has been a positive cultural shift happening in downtown Great Falls since about 2013 when the Mighty Mo Brewing Company opened up across the street from Kaufman’s. He believes that the current businesses downtown and the leadership in organizations like the Downtown Great Falls Association, the Business Improvement District, the Great Falls Development Authority, and the Chamber are all moving in the right direction to make our downtown and community have positive sustainable growth.

“We’ve got the right people in the right places,” he says. “And this benefits everybody. We’ve got a new slate of downtown entrepreneurs and it’s very refreshing to have such wonderful business friends who have taken the risk to make downtown a better place.”

Brian credits all of the many constituents he works with for helping to make Kaufman’s successful all these years including his banker, accountant, the downtown associations, and his office manager of twenty-three years, Kory Van Hauen. Most of all, Brian is thankful to the community of Great Falls who he believes has kept them in business for almost 130 years.

So what’s next for Kaufman’s Menswear Centre in downtown Great Falls? “I plan on being here for a long time,” Brian says.

The store is open from 9:30 am-5:30 pm Monday through Friday, and 9:30 am-5 pm on Saturdays. Kaufman’s is your one- stop-shop from socks to suits, and everything in-between.

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