By Tim Lee
When you drive through the Little Belt Mountains in Central Montana, you are greeted by small communities that would seem insignificant to any passer-by. But for those who take
the time to stop in these communities, whether for purposeful curiosity, by accident or even pure dire necessity, these communities suddenly show themselves to be alive and vibrant.
Neihart is one of these communities, and their main hub is a small red store with a sign that will always have you do a double take, because the store’s name is “The Inconvenience Store.” The store is quaint and looks like it has been there for a while. Dan Eckert, the manager of the store, will tell you it has been there since 1941, and then take you over to a picture of Neihart from 1922 and show you how big this mining town used to be just after its prime.
The store is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary in June as a co-op owned store with a board of directors and over 250 members all around the country who all have stakes supporting the store’s success and continuing legacy. As the board of directors was deciding the fate of the store, they decided to keep the original structure and update it a little over time. Floors being the next task to complete, Dan had already assembled a group of volunteers to assist in the sorting of the store so they could begin the installation of the new floors. The entire community got involved in the clean up and preparation. “None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for our community.”
It’s clear to see that the Inconvenience Store strives to be everything but Inconvenient, and undoubtedly has saved a few lives in its time. “Just last year a bunch of people pulled up to the store asking for help because they just saw a motorcycle crash. We are right next door to the volunteer fire department so three of our guys got out there and helped them out right away.” Dan mentions they strive do to anything they can to make inconvenient situations manageable for anyone in duress. “I’m pretty sure we are one of the last places that has a working phone booth too,” Dan says proudly. “It is very cute to watch kids get into the booth for photo opportunities, holding their cell phones up to their ear inside of the booth instead of the phone booth handset.”
Dan, like many people that now call Montana their home, served in the military and fell in love with Montana when
he was here on duty from 1997-2000. Then in 2017, he and his wife Pam moved out to Neihart jumping between camp sites until they found a home. Dan swears he will never leave Neihart, joking that he is about to reserve his plot in the Neihart Community Cemetery. It is easy to see he is one of the main reasons The Inconvenience Store is so welcoming, as his personality and love for his community is infectious.
Busy season for The Inconvenience Store is from Memorial Day through Labor Day and they see campers and tourists from all over the world. “We have a potluck every Saturday night, everyone is welcome, and don’t forget ‘I Heart Neihart’ on Labor day weekend with breakfast at the school, rubber ducky races down the stream, a baseball game, Monarch vs. Neihart, and several bands behind Bob’s Bar!”
The Inconvenience Store is open year around and Dan and his wife Pam personally extend their invitation to you. “Stop in, say hi, have a cup of coffee!” Learn more about the store at Facebook. com/NeihartStore, or visit neihartstore.com. Learn why 16,000 people love Neihart at Facebook.com/intothelittlebelts, and watch our podcast where Tim Lee sits down with Dan and learns a bit more about the community at MontanaLifestylesPodcast.com.