The “New Missoula”

by Jamee Greer

It’s Saturday, the week before finals begins and boy do I need to catch up on my studies! So, I head downtown to Higgins Ave, laptop in my backpack, ready to caffeinate and hit the books. To my dismay, every coffee shop in town is packed to the brim with other caffeinated students, festively (eggnog lattes!) cramming before exams. And so it dawns on me: this is why Missoula needs a new place to hang out!

An extra living room downtown,” says United Way Executive Director, Susan Hay Cramer. “A great place to bring friends or bring your wife before or after dinner,” says Whitefish attorney, Chad Wold. A place where “the interior design is completely on the money, yet completely unpretentious.” I’m talking the “new Missoula.” Give me The Loft!

Virtually everyone I know has an opinion about it. Most All of my friends are frustrated—and many folks are disgustedwith this “new country club, without the golf…

$175 a month would sure pay for a lot of the things “new missoula” needs, you know, like heated sidewalks, valet parking or a performance art center (“oh my god oh my god Keith Urban!”)

But, I sure do have to agree with some of the new members: having that extra living room downtown sounds great! After being evicted from my old place in the Wilma Building so it could be converted into a luxury condominium, I sure could use that extra living room…

  1. JC

    Ellie Hill should see if they’ll convert her gratis membership into one where she can give daily passes to Povarello residents. Then while she’s not down at the Loft(y), homeless Missoulians can spend the day there in her stead, while complying with the Pov’s regs to begone during the day–even if the temps are sub-freezing.

    At least it’ll be a good place for Pov pan handlers to hang out. The director will be looking out for their interests while glad handing some donations inside.

    Gentrification is alive and well in Missoula.

  2. Ayn Rand

    God yes, lets dictate how those with IT need to seperate themselves from IT…and give it …….for others benifit. sweet! Good ole Missoula.

  3. goof houlihan

    I don’t see any coherence in the philosophy of this new blogger.

    He wants people to respect his right to self determination, yet wants to control other people’s use of their money.

    The right to control one’s personal self is a fundamental property right. Respect for property rights is respect for personal rights, like sexual and reproductive rights.

    Yet more than once now I’ve seen envy and spite directed at those who choose to exercise those same rights. Many folks are disgusted at those who exercise sexual and reproductive rights–I’m not one of those. However, I’m not disgusted when someone chooses to use the fruits of their labor either.

    Want respect for your lockean rights? Then repect others in their exercise of those same rights.

  4. Jim Lang

    Maybe we should start a pool to bet on how long it will be before this place closes it’s doors for good.

    I miss Jay’s.

  5. I’m with you, goof. I don’t have a problem with this new place, tho I can neither afford to join, nor would want to.

    I think that it’s housed in the same place where Jay’s was is what’s spurring a lot of the…animosity? And Missoula’s always been a pretty democratic town…to see a place that’s marketing its exclusivity…well…it doesn’t fit in with the town’s traditions.

    Is it the “new” Missoula? Or just a burp?

  6. And if you’re not familiar with Jay’s, it was the center of the Missoula alt- and punk rock scene. Sort of the opposite of what is now…

  7. goof houlihan

    I’m not into it either, but from what I’ve seen, gentrification would be a good thing for downtown. Other cities in Montana who havent’ gone the gentrification route include Anaconda, Butte and Havre.

    Cities that are going the gentrification, new urbanist route include Billings, Bozeman, Phillipsburg, Whitefish, etc.

    Which way will Missoula go? Keep in mind, one way keeps the tae kwon do shop next to the pawn shop and the casino, and the other way dislocates and disenfranchises marginal businesses and living situations.

  8. Jim Lang

    goof – where did he say anything about wanting to “control other people’s use of their money”?

    Did you read the same post that I did? The one at the top of this page?

  9. JC

    It’s not that I have a philosophical problem with the Loft. I have a problem with the Director of the Poverello accepting a free membership and attending. It is horribly bad public policy and publicity for directors of nonprofit corporations to accept such gifts. Some of us might refer to it as “guilt money.”

    Sure, the individuals have the right to do what they want with their money, and purchase memberships, if they want. The citizens of this town also has the right to judge whether or not they want individuals who engage in elitist and exclusive behavior running those organizations.

    As to those of us who have a history with Jay’s (and I did perform there many times in the past), one only has to read beween the line’s of Colin Hickey’s statement in last week’s Entertainer:

    “…[Jay’s] was kind of like an exclusive place for the lowest 5 percent of Missoula society. Now, I guess it’s turned into an exclusive place for the top 5 percent of Missoula society.”

    Other than an obvious slam to individuals and groups who performed and attended the club–and I’ve seen people and performers from across the social strata of Missoula do so–Hickey’s comments points to an increasing classist society in Missoula. Hence my comments about gentrification.

    When gentrification results in loss of things like affordable housing (i.e.the Wilma condo project), alternative opportunities for venue (not that I’m blaming the Loft on Jay’s demise–that’s a whole ‘nother topic), and small mom & pop or alternative downtown businesses, then I have a problem with it.

    Gentrification in a downtown that is disintegrating is one thing (like Butte Anaconda and Havre). Gentrification in a thriving downtown like Missoula’s or Bozeman’s, in effect pushing out long term residents and small businesses businesses and individuals, impoverishes us all. Hence many of us see the Loft as a bell-weather of what we dislike most about the direction Missoula is heading.

  10. JC

    Hmmm… reading back, I see my opening statement and ending statement are at odds with each other. Maybe what I do have IS a philosophical problem with the Loft in particular, but not the idea of an elitist club in general, as long as the elitist clubs follow the laws as to civil rights and discrimination.

  11. I’m not sure I would characterize growth in a either/or equation: The Loft & thriving urban areas vs. casinos and stagnant downtowns. Jay’s was neither, a funky little rock-n-roll club that made Missoula hip.

    Not that we have control over who buys what clubs and how they choose to market themselves. But it’s an enviable position to be, to be able to debate whether Missoula needs an exclusive after-hours club or not, innit?

  12. goof houlihan

    “Did you read the same post that I did? The one at the top of this page?”

    Sure did. Understood it, too.

  13. Jim Lang

    Well, since you are apparently smarter than me, perhaps you could explain where in his post he said anything about wanting to “control other people’s use of their money”?

  14. Jedediah Redman

    Am I hearing people saying that so long as a town has a loft and a poverello center it is moving in an okay direction?

    Let them eat cake…

  15. Actually, Jed, Marie Antoinette never uttered that phrase. However, it doesn’t really matter. If a city can have both and take care of its poorest citizens why do you care what the top five percent get up to in their spare time? If the time and money Ellie Hill spends at The Loft cuts into the Pov’s budget, then we can and should complain. Until then, private individuals can spend their private time on private property however they wish.

    I set foot in Jay’s maybe twice. It was a dump, and that’s coming from someone who spent her entire adolescence at punk shows in San Francisco. I don’t really understand all the boo-hoo-hoo “Jay’s is now The Loft waaaaah” b.s. Membership at The Loft is not something on which I would ever waste my money. Colin Hickey was right when he said something to the effect in The Entertainer that he would rather hang out in his living room with friends drinking beer for free. But the outrage? A tempest in search of a teapot.

  16. Oh, and hey, Jamee: I don’t mean to rag on your post.

  17. JC

    Ellie Hill already has a problem with her image among many circles in Missoula, including some Poverello staff, supporters and donors. This issue doesn’t help her standing, or the plight of Pov residents at all.

    The problem with gentrification in Missoula, particularly downtown, is that you can take each individual instance, and pooh pooh it. Add it all up, and it shows some disturbing trends for those who have called Missoula home for many years, and have yet to share in the benefits some ascribe to it.

    Rebecca, you may call Jays a dump, and I’ll admit it wasn’t an attractive place in many ways. But you could hear music there that you couldn’t hear any place else in Missoula–some great touring bands would gig there on their way through town. And it was a place where the door cover could always be donated to a cause, if the band , so benefits abounded.

    Losing Jay’s and getting the Loft aren’t connected actions, thus any outrage would definitely be misplaced. But emblematic of the gentrification of Missoula? Definitely.

  18. Jedediah Redman

    Are you and the other MS on this site going to spend a lot of time putting words in my mouth?
    It is a really thankless–and very profitless–pastime.

    I don’t think I mentioned poor headless Marie Antoinette once.
    I simply gave voice to a cliche attributed by many dull scholars to her; but I suspect it was a platitude long before that even started.

    Contrary, by the way, to your whatever! libertarianism, I embrace that old IWW–Tom Joad leftist perspective:
    So long as there are cold, hungry, shelterlesss people on the streets of Missoula, I do object to such an old boys club…

  19. Jamee Greer

    Whoa, Nelly! JC, let’s reel in the hearsay a little bit!

    Despite the article’s statement that four executive directors from local non-profits received free memberships to the club, it’s my understanding that Ellie Hill was not one. I’m not sure why the article wasn’t more clear regarding that and perhaps Joe Nickel should clarify.

    Susan Hay Cramer and Ellie Hill do a lot for the community, I think we all need to remember that. Ms. Cramer is respected by an astoundingly wide cross-section of Missoulians, and Ms. Hill has proved herself an effective advocate for Missoula’s less fortunate.

    Joe Nickel’s Entertainer article was supposed to be a superficial fly-by of Missoula’s newest social club, a fuzzy piece focusing on the Loft’s upholstry and vibe. Instead we got something better suited for the a-section, not page six… an article with a subtext of gentrification and social mobility.

    It’s not something one can reduce to Butte or Bozeman, boom or bust. Missoula is going through some real changes right now, and there’s bound to be growing pains. I was at the center of one of those frustrating situations when I lost my apartment in the Wilma Building this November.

    But that type of change also brings about good things, like the preservation of one of Missoula’s greatest landmarks by decent folks who care about its integrity.

    Now’s the time to discuss what changes we want to see for Missoula, freely and openly. Let’s just avoid the slander while we’re at it!

  20. Jamee Greer

    Bozeman. Read it if you’re interested in the gentrification they’re experiencing just down the road.

  21. Ellie Hill

    I am a long time fan and reader of 4 and 20, and I have never commented until now. I must admit that I am a bit reluctant to do so, but I have been encouraged by many fellow 4 and 20 readers to respond.
    First, The Poverello Center does NOT have a complimentary membership to the Loft. My husband purchased an individual membership for his business dealings. No money donated to the Poverello Center would EVER be spent on anything other than the day to day operations involved in operating Western Montana’s largest soup kitchen and emergency homeless shelter.
    The Loft provided complimentary memberships only to United Way, the Missoula Art Museum and the Missoula Symphony. Nonprofits in Whitefish have used The Loft to raise more than three-quarters of a million dollars for local charities.
    Joe Nickell is a friend and when asked to comment on a story he was working on, I was happy to oblige.
    It has been my calling to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. To do this, I am both constantly fundraising (to give you an idea, the Pov’s annual heating bill is $16,000) and educating the community on poverty and food insecurity issues. My job is consistently about building relationships. There are plenty of fantastic places downtown to conduct business – the Loft is just another one.
    The bottom line is that I have to fight every day for the voices of 200 to 250 homeless, elderly, mentally and physically disabled, individuals, veterans and families to be heard, and I will go ANYWHERE and talk to ANYONE if it means raising support for the Poverello Center; yes – even a private club.
    At the Pov, we serve all who ask and we do not discriminate. We meet all people “where they are”. And, we treat everyone with the same respect, whether they are homeless people or corporate CEOs.
    I sincerely invite my fellow 4 and 20 readers to e-mail me if they would like to speak further about the Missoulian article.
    I see so much pain and anger daily, right here in Missoula, that I hope we all try to reflect deliberate kindness towards one another. Best wishes to all.

  22. Thanks for commenting, Ellie!

  23. But you could hear music there that you couldn’t hear any place else in Missoula–some great touring bands would gig there on their way through town.

    True, JC. The two bands I saw there were entirely homegrown, but you’re right. It was a…unique…bar. But now there are other venues that can take its place and offer so much more, like the Badlander. The beat goes on!

    No one’s putting words into your mouth, Jed. If you don’t like the way you sound, change the way you deliver your message or be prepared for further debate. Regardless, I find it very hard to believe that the presence of this “old boys club”–which I am not a fan of, in case you missed that–impacts the homeless, clients of the Poverello and other agencies. It has nothing to do with Libertarianism or any other political philosophy. I’m sure many members of The Loft donate their time and money to various charitable causes. Should they forego their membership dues there and donate those monies to the Pov and other shelters instead? Only they can come to that decision.

    Last week, jhwygirl and I were “Reagan Democrats”, this week I’m a Libertarian. What’s next? Will I be a member of the Religious Right by the end of the month?

  24. By the way, if anyone wants to donate to the Poverello Center, check out their donations page.

    The Poverello Center is crucial to Missoula.

  25. Pen

    I’ve known Ellie Hill for about a year, and in that year we’ve grown to be good friends. What I know of Ellie is that she is a TIRELESS advocate for the poor, and her commitment to the Pov. and its clients is unwavering. JC seems to have a personal issue with Ellie. That’s fine. Take it up with her personally. Trying to slander her anonymously on the blogs is incredibly petty and counter productive. Show me someone in this town who does more for Missoula’s homeless. I doubt you can.

    “On a tour of the Poverello’s three-story, labyrinthine facility, which has been slowly remodeled and added onto as needs have dictated over past decades, Hill shows and tells some of the catalysts spurring her quest for improving the facility. Her quick smile and contagious laugh offset any mounting concern, making it clear why the Poverello’s board of directors saw fit to appoint such a charismatic leader at a critical time.”

  26. Anonymous non-slanderer

    I have to commend Ellie Hill for coming forward and actually posting a response to what I consider to be a pseudo-slandering of her name in several of the previous posts. Perhaps now “JC” will attack the E.D.s of the United Way, Missoula Art Museum, and the Missoula Symphony. But somehow I doubt it considering that he or she tends to repeatedly bring up Ellie in a conversation of postings that are moving to a more intriguing and genuinely interesting topic of discussion. Perhaps, “JC” may need to take a note for Mrs. Hill and come out from hiding behind the anonymity of a fake posting name and actually state his or her opinions in the open. I do not think any of the readers of these comments are naïve enough to think that “JC’s” problem with the Loft is the gentrification of Missoula or the fact that the place he or she had performed now longer exists. Though her “image among many circles in Missoula, including some Poverello staff, supporters and donors” may have its problems, the fact remains that Ellie Hill has achieved more for the Poverello Center in the last year than most of its executive directors have accomplished in years past. So, to be bold, “JC” what have you done for your community lately?

  27. goof houlihan

    Breaking my rule to post this over lunch, but Jamie, the GoBuild is a great example of what can be required and done if an area establishes “gentrified” development ordinances.

    This showcase for “new urbanist” design includes almost half the property put into park, open space and trails and protected riparian corridors, it may include as many as 120 “affordable” (in the accepted definition” living units, it has multiple high rises, multiple uses, a “downtown” area, and preserves a historically significant building and site. The development will achieve LEED certification. IN addition, all commercial buildings will have to achieve leed silver designation. There will be adaptive reuse of current buildings. The development includes community service, residential and commercial development in a dense mixed use design.

    The developers did buy and displace a mobile home park, which certainly qualifies for “gentrification”. However, we all know the temporary nature of mobile home dwelling and the risk that mobile home park dwellers accept in exchange for lower rents, much as people did who had beautiful views of the river in a cool downtown location yet paid little in rent, eh? Anywhere there is the market inefficiency of inexpensive rent on very high amenity property, at some point that will be identified and corrected. It doesn’t mean there can’t be inexpensive rent elsewhere, but it probably won’t come with the views of the mountains and rivers and somebody else’s undeveloped property as a playground.

    And the developers worked with each individual mobile home space renter and offered a number of different plans for each person. They didn’t, by right, get to live on land they didn’t own, it’s true, nor should the be able to, in my opinion. But the Community Affordable Housing Advisory Board, HRDC, and other organizations looked monitored the situation closely.

    I think the GoBuild/Story Mill project would be a fine study of gentrification and the development process. There’s much more that could be said, and perhaps someday there will be a chance to present the process and result in Missoula.

    There will be such issues in Missoula, in downtown and in other areas. I’ve seen it around urban universities who own blocks of land upon which hundred year old houses where generations of people of color have lived—imagine where issues of gentrification, urban university expansion, attracting business and industry into a decaying downtown, and race are all intermingled. Missoula’s is hardly an equal conundrum, golf course or old theatre notwithstanding. I don’t want to belittle the Missoula issues, but from what I’ve observed, downtown has a lot of rebuilding and safety issues that will need private investment to maintain.

    It’s not my town, but as I said elsewhere, I read 4&20 to keep up with the local governance issues, and I think you’ve raised two, safety and private investment, that directly affect the health of your downtown.

  28. mediabee

    I agree with the above posters and must heap my support on top of the pile for Missoula’s nonprofits. First of all, JC, before you make slanderous statements, perhaps you should get your facts straight. Secondly, even if the Loft had donated Ms. Hill’s membership, which they did not, the donation of memberships to nonprofits should be viewed in a positive, rather than negative light. Anybody who has ever done any marketing for nonprofits knows how difficult it is to cultivate donors. If the Loft can provide an opportunity to communicate with untapped donors in the top income brackets, so be it. You seem very opinionated about the working of the nonprofit sector in Missoula. How much money have YOU donated to the Pov this year? As per the gentrification issue, in order to have a thriving/attractive downtown we need a healthy mix of retail, housing, restaurants, etc., not only bars. Let’s quit mourning the loss of Jays, go to a Poverello hosted “Rock Raiser” at the Badlander and move on with our lives.

  29. Jamee Greer

    Just taking a quick break from termpaperville to let everyone know that Missoula’s awesome new call-in talkshow, Mouth Off Missoula, will be discussing the issue of poverty and homelessness tomorrow evening from 5:10 until 6 – on KBGA 89.9FM.

    Ellie Hill will be one of the scheduled guests and it should be a great one!

    Full disclosure: Mouth Off Missoula is sponsored by KBGA and Forward Montana. Forward Montana happens to be my employer.

  30. Kilgore

    I could deal with this supposed “gentrification” if we got a real zoning rewrite, housing codes enforcement, and planned growth. Billings and Bozeman are both ahead of us in that department. I know the Jay’s folks are hurt about this one, but music is changing as fast as the venues are. I agree with mediabee. It’s been over. Half of the Jay’s crowd is married with kids. Nostalgia can get kind of ridiculous.

  31. JC

    So, to be bold, “JC” what have you done for your community lately?

    WIthout going into details, I can say that I spend many hours a week volunteering for nonprofits, community, and service organizations, (including the Pov in the past) and many other organizations providing services to the poor, homeless, mentally ill, and addicted. And I have done so over the duration of 20+ years in Missoula. That I choose to fly under the radar here, allows me to continue public service, while expressing my opinion and frustration with what I see are some troubling trends in Missoula.

    My apologies to Ms. Hill for misreading the Entertainer article and assuming that the Pov was one of the comp organizations the Loft had given memberships to. But that still doesn’t change the fact that the Director of the Pov chose to comment about her association with an elitist and exclusive club in the local newspaper. I’m not trying to be personal about this. Any person working in the role of Director of the Pov will be subject to intense scrutiny about their public life, rightly or wrongly. It comes with the job. I just hope that it doesn’t affect the Pov down the road as it determines its future in Missoula.

  32. Anonymous non-slanderer

    Thank you JC for pointing out all of your work that you do here and none of us, I don’t think, would obviously condemn anyone for volunteering and helping out Missoula in anyway possible. But, my posting was just to do that…that is have you bring it out that you do work in the non-profit world here; and, thus, you statements regarding Ellie Hill are biased.

    As, I have just personally spoken with the manager of the Loft, the club was neither intended to ever be elitist nor exclusive (a point that was also made clear to me by both of the owners of the Loft over three weeks ago). Anyone—yes, with the means—can join this enterprise which is mostly bent to being a place focused on businesses and business owners to hold meetings and to establish connections with other businesses in the community. The same can be said for all of the non-profit originations and their executive directors.

  33. Jamee Greer

    Wait… please explain to me how the owner intended for this place to not be elitist or exclusive? I’m totally at a loss for words on this one.

  34. Jedediah Redman

    “No one’s putting words into your mouth, Jed. If you don’t like the way you sound, change the way you deliver your message or be prepared for further debate.”
    So you’re saying your reference to Marie Antoinette was for purposes of my education, then, Becky–not as a deliberate effort at dissimulation or obfuscation.
    Ratchet appears to have been pretty impressed by you.
    I can’t imagine why…

  35. Jedediah Redman

    “Wait… please explain to me how the owner intended for this place to not be elitist or exclusive? I’m totally at a loss for words on this one.”

    Nice to see that at least one of the spokespersons for this forum can be honest about class warfare…

  36. Actually, it was neither. It was simply a suggestion that perhaps a cliché phrase never uttered in reality may not be the best desciption for the mores of a city with both a private club and a homeless shelter. You’ve got a habit of denigrating the efforts of non-profits in your zeal to show there’s a class war out there. No one’s arguing the latter. However, judging those who choose to spend their disposable income as they see fit (and being personally insulting to others) isn’t “being honest about class warfare”. Far from it.

  37. Jedediah Redman

    So I’ll just chalk it up to a lesson from the old guard to the new kid on the block, then..?

  38. Jamee Greer

    “The club was neither intended to ever be elitist nor exclusive (a point that was also made clear to me by both of the owners of the Loft over three weeks ago)”

    Still waiting for the logic to come through on this one.

  39. Jedediah Redman

    They may be checking with the DLR–or perhaps somebody is channeling the Acting president..?

  40. Hi folks, thought I would weigh in momentarily here (I wrote two of the stories in the Missoulian). I am glad to see this discussion unfolding in the community outside the confines of the newspaper, because it really touches, I think, on some important changes we’re all trying to understand in Missoula.

    I’m not sure whether to cheer or sigh over Jamee’s assessment of the E cover story. Jamee asserts that the article “…was supposed to be a superficial fly-by of Missoula’s newest social club, a fuzzy piece focusing on the Loft’s upholstry and vibe. Instead we got something better suited for the a-section, not page six… an article with a subtext of gentrification and social mobility.”

    I’m glad you got that latter point Jamee, but I’m not sure where the “page six” thing came from; it was on the cover of the Entertainer which is a stand-alone, free publication that reaches far more people than the Thursday daily paper. As the editor of the E, I try hard to find arts and culture stories that can be expanded beyond simply “what’s happening” to bigger issues and stories of our culture. I would hope that you don’t think that E stories are “supposed to be…superficial” and “fuzzy.” We try to move well beyond those standards on a weekly basis.

    But anyway, that may be beside the point — especially since you yourself point out that the story does get into a bigger issue.

    For years, like many of us, I’ve watched downtown Missoula changing, with the infusion of many new boutique shops that most of us can’t afford to patronize. I see this as a major cultural shift in our downtown, and such shifts do precipitate changes of all sorts. I’ve seen it happen in other towns where I’ve lived, and now I’m seeing it here. I’ve never quite wrapped my mind around whether this is a “good” or “bad” shift — a fact that was apparently reflected by the people who called me after that article was published, some complaining that I was biased AGAINST businesses like the Loft, others complaining that I was biased FOR it.

    In any event, my job as a reporter is to report, not opine. I leave the latter to the column I write.

    I did, however, endeavor to draw this one new business into a bigger picture of our changing downtown and how it reflects changes in the broader community — the influx of people who already have money and people who make a lot of money.

    I guess what I’m getting at here is that the focus on the Loft — or on Jay’s, or on the people who are or aren’t members of this new club — seemed appropriate in order to make this broader story specific for the newspaper; but as this discussion unfolds it seems to have created a bit of a diversion from the bigger issues that I was ultimately trying to address, and that truly affect us: upwardly spiraling downtown rents for businesses and residences, the expansion of high-end shopping and how that affects the demographics and traffic patterns in our downtown, and so-on.

    Particularly when folks take Ellie Hill and Susan Cramer to task for their choice to spend time at this new place, I guess I just don’t get it. In both of their cases, it’s not their non-profits that suffer from their choice to either accept a free membership, or pay for a membership with personal money; either way, it’s not costing the Pov or United Way a cent. In fact, as Ellie and Susan have both said (Ellie said it here; Susan said it in today’s opinion page of the Missoulian), being able to find potential donors “where they are” is critical to their ability to raise money to continue serving the needs of their respective organizations. That’s just simply the way it is with fundraising.

    Again, I’m glad this discussion is being hashed out here, and if anybody ever feels like contacting me directly, feel free — I’m jnickell (at)

  41. WendyO

    Christ. Fans of Jay’s – call it a hole, call it heaven – are not pissing & moaning still because it’s gone. We’re just tired of the hypocrisy that seems to suit the ‘new face’ of Missoula. Since when did being an advocate for anyone or anything involve some Dickensian club wherein the patrons declare their annual allotment for the poor? Maybe that’s the way the good old boys (and girls) behind locked doors and leather ottomans do it, but a whole lot of crusty punks turned upstanding community members feel otherwise. We make the wheels of Missoula turn just heartily and have more staying power than a lot of the multi-million dollar deal brokers who would pass on this town the minute their bottom line dipped.

    This is not about live and let live, choice, etc. It’s about carpetbagging and how to be a big drip in a small pond.

  42. JC

    Thanks for dropping in Joe. It was an interesting juxtaposition of stories in the Missoula lately–your E piece, today’s stories about “Feeling the Squeeze” and Cramer’s editorial. Leaving aside the issue of pubic accountability and ethical behavior of our city’s nonprofit leaders, You have unearthed some interesting trends, and touched on some real hot spots around town.

    Much of what I have been getting at is the Loft is indicative of a larger trend in Missoula. Cramer’s statement that she needs to be ‘able to find potential donors “where they are”’ points to a disturbing fact. The working poor, that are so well illustrated in today’s Missoulian cover story are no longer able to contribute money to outfits like the Poverello and the United Way. Indeed, they have become clients of the nonprofits they may likely have once supported. Many long term residents in Missoula, like myself, are no longer able to support nonprofits financially, instead offering a gift of our time, if possible.

    Cramer’s desire to follow the money is understandable–it is her job after all. But what is unfortunate, and left unsaid in all of this, that in order to follow the money, you leave many behind. And those of us left behind in the “New Missoula” find ourselves seeking services from nonprofits funded by the United Way, and perchance a roof over our head at a place like the Poverello for a few nights; a few meals provided by the Food Bank or Senior Center. a living wage is no longer that. It takes a living wage, plus the services provided by Missoula’s nonprofits (and their donors) in order to survive.

    Missoula used to be a place where those leading the city would step down from on high, and walk among the unwashed–spend a night in the local jail. Walk among the hobo camps, and talk to transients. Deliver a dinner with Meals on Wheels. Spend Christmas Eve at the Providence Center’s third floor, bringing cheer to those without.

    Instead, we are greeted with portraits of our nonprofit leaders as upwardly mobile professionals that seem so out of touch with those they actually provide services to. Humility in the face of public service is a rare commodity today. But a character trait that will be essential in this changed Missoula, in order to avoid a class war between the “New” Missoula, and the “Old” Missoula.

  43. Kilgore

    Wendy, I really think that if this club wasn’t going in where Jay’s was there would be 20 fewer comments on this blog. That doesn’t mean I like it any more than anybody else. There is a definite class war going on in this town, and we, the “little” people are losing it. I’m losing my job next week. I have no leads other than the usual restaurant crap, getting under $10 an hour to shorten my life span, even though I’ve been through college twice. It’s frustrating that it takes a club for rich people to rile people up. The club is just a symbol of what we are really angry about. Keep the pressure on our local officials!

  44. WendyO

    The location of this, while hilarious and talked about frequently among former barfly types, absolutely is a touchstone. It seems perfectly appropriate that Jay turned that vomit-enhanced bar into the LaFlesch and thereby The Loft (how many “Loft”s do we need, btw?).

    JC, despite the fact that you’re so rude to the only people who help people in Missoula, you’re right on the $. Unfortunately, it has become all about $, hasn’t it?

    I have a better quote – this one should appear on some t-shirts, just like it did in the day: Eat the Rich.

  45. Colin Hickey

    I helped run Jay’s for the last three years of it’s existence. Jay’s was a lot of things. It was extremely dirty and worn down but it was also an amazing place that helped form some of the best local acts to ever play in this town Volumen, Oblio Joes, Humpy, No Fi Soul Rebellion, Spanker, Sasshole, The International Playboys(sorry couldn’t help myself)…and the list goes on. Also Jay’s put Missoula on the national music map which is the reason why we still get some of the shows that we see today. If this place wasn’t going into Jay’s then this wouldn’t be getting the attention that it is. Is there a gap between the rich and poor in Missoula? Of course there is just like the rest of the country. So I say we all chip in some money to get me a membership to The Loft and I’ll promise to get drunk on whiskey there three times a week and take my shirt off during happy hour. It will be just like the old days. That will show them. Wait lets make it Watermelon Pucker instead I’m much more fun drunk on that.

  46. WendyO

    Gee, Colin, I was going to say something about “No blacks, No Irish” but then was afraid I’d get called a racist. So I’ll instead say Go For It! You have my $20/month… I was just going to spend it on food.

  47. Kilgore

    Colin, you of course have my support. I think that is the best idea you’ve had since you all bought those cowboy boots in Texas.

  48. Jedediah Redman

    When was it not about $..?

  49. I think Colin’s suggestion is one of those things that can bring us all together. You know, it’s the healing power of nudity and Watermelon Pucker.

  50. I think one of my favorite quotes of all times, where things like this are concerned, is “the only people who like change are wet babies and cashiers.” Not sure whom to attribute it to, but it strikes me that a lot of the intangible, can’t-quite-explain-it stuff that so much of us like about Missoula has to do with both it having been (and in some ways still being) a relatively cheap place to live and enjoy yourself, as well as an open-minded, socially conscious and politically engaged place. I remember that forever, shows at Jay’s rarely exceeded $4 cover, and a Pabst was (max) $2, with every third (or so) beer was free, depending who you knew. I think we all knew it was somewhat unsustainable, but it was what it was, and as Colin points out, it was a serious incubator of musical talent.

    Jay’s, and the bands that played there, really did a lot to get Missoula culture onto the map. It was a low, low cost place for a lot of good music to happen. Most significantly, the low-cost nature of Jay’s shows, meant that the frequency with which you could see a handful of touring and local bands -for next to no money- was pretty insane. Thankfully, the Palace and Badlander have jumped in pretty significantly to the role of indie music venues, and hopefully with a far more sustainable business plan.

    I think it’s fair also to say that it’s more difficult now, than in the Jay’s days, to put together DIY shows for the hundreds of obscure, hard-working bands that are constantly on the road. Because of that Missoula’s become less of a culture contributor and more of a spectator. I take no joy in seeing the “big names” getting Missoula onto their touring routes, while simultaneously seeing the significant musical exchange with places like Sacramento, Portland, Minneapolis, Chattanooga, Olympia (etc.) fade with time.

    So, how does this tie in with this discussion about class? I think it’s a sad trend in the West, that as boomers retire, often times they relocate, and they set their sites on nice towns like Missoula. In Bellingham, Washington the 3B (their Jay’s) was the victim of the types of changes brought by extensive new retirement housing and lofts being dropped downtown. Friends of mine there tried desperately to open an indie music venue, and ultimately failed because either rent was too high or owners wouldn’t consider that use of their space following this change. I think if you’re poor, working, and even squarely middle class your opportunities to participate in the sort of grass-roots, DIY music and culture that made, and make, Missoula a great city are going to seriously erode with time, unless there’s a change.

  51. Colin Hickey

    Well put Josh. Amen.

  52. Jedediah Redman

    Its nice to see the phenomenon is getting a lot of space on this forum–first the Cabella realty scam; and now gentrification of Missoula:

    Upper middle class movement into the rarified atmos-phere of Bush’s America is resulting in a smaller middle class, a larger peasant class and an infinitely larger peonage…

  53. Ponder

    The thing that bothers me about The Loft is that it is coming during time when money isn’t trickling into non-profits and times are rough for a lot of middle income and low-income folks. MPA closed it’s doors in Missoula laying off it’s staff, a few housing organizations have had to down size or reduce staff time to 20 hours a week. Kilgore lost his job, he didn’t say it, but it’s due to lack of funding.

    So if frustrates me that The Loft takes money away from those that could be giving it to some worthwhile causes that really need it. If people are paying attention, our US currency is losing value, our dollar is less than both the Canadian currency and the Euro. Our housing disaster has created a down turn in our stock market …….. and much more. Due to these circumstances people with money are not giving it to non-profits and I feel like they shouldn’t be giving it to The Loft either.

    I know it’s really none of my business where their money goes, but hopefully some of the people with money are reading this and realize that their money would be much more appreciated elsewhere.

  54. Matthew Koehler

    I know I’m jumping in a little late, but I have to say that I don’t see why some people are so upset about The Loft, anymore than they are upset that someone joins the Missoula Country Club or spends their money on a European vacation or rings up a $500 bill at the Red Bird tonight. Someone put a considerable amount of money into a renovation of the building and on the second floor established The Loft. Would there be an outcry if, instead of The Loft, the second floor was the offices of a private law firm? or a design firm? or a non-profit? These places wouldn’t exactly be open to the public either.

    I don’t plan on joining, but I know a few people who have. I even attended a going away party for a friend at The Loft recently and I found it to be a pretty low-key place to hang out. I’d suspect that for people who like to throw an occasional party for their friends or work colleagues or peers, spending $2,100 annually ($175/month) for access to The Loft isn’t really such a bad deal and it may even be good deal economically. You could easily spend a big chunk of change just renting out a similar venue in downtown Missoula for just one night. Missoula has much bigger issues to worry about.

  55. goof houlihan

    Interesting to read this now, knowing that the Go Build was financed by a scam and a pyramid scheme. I have some hope that HRDC and the City can recover some property for mobile homes…although the infrastructure improvements needed to put the mobile home back in would be extremely expensive…the older court had some marginal infrastructure.

    Still some kind of non profit co-operative that could raise state or federal funds leveraged by the annual levy for work force housing might actually accomplish a reasonably priced park. Not for the very poor, no, but for those in the workforce who can’t afford even the attached wall condo at 109,000.

    However, the creditors get first dibs.

  1. 1 Loft-y Ideas, Pt. II « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] had no idea how popular this blog was until I made the original post. Between the fact that readership tripled on Monday and the almost two dozen people I ran into on […]

  2. 2 Downtown will never be the same « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Greer created a bit of a firestorm with his recent post on the newly created, members only, tony bar called The Loft. Comments ran the gamut, from attacks […]

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