Loft-y Ideas, Pt. II

By Jamee Greer

(While many members of Missoula’s community enjoy the benefits of warm homes in the winter and luxuries like wireless internet access, we should remember that some others do not. Support Missoula’s homeless shelter, the Poverello. Donations can be made by clicking here, and those with spare time and tight budgets can volunteer by calling the Poverello’s Volunteer Coordinator, Frankie Feinstein, at 728-1809.)

I 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 on campus who thanked me for writing the post, I’m still a little stunned.

I’m known for being sarcastic, but often only to get my point across—and usually regarding an injustice. When I sat down at the coffee shop last weekend to write this, I wanted to instigate discussion. I wanted folks to begin communicating about the ramifications we face, for better or worse, as our magnanimous city evolves.

Folks might say that’s idealistic, or that I’m just bitter over loosing my apartment to gentrification this fall. Truth be told, I’m a little of both. But I’d rather use that idealism and bitterness to focus my energy on social change in my twenties—rather than bottle it in until my seventies and regret that I hadn’t done something when I still could. My argument—and I assume the arguments of many others who commented on Missoula’s new social club—aren’t naïve or nostalgic. It’s a shared fear that the city we’ve embraced as home is changing and we’re at a precarious point where our voices, planning and politics will determine the future of Missoula.

Really what we have here is a fantastic social experiment in twenty-first century conversation, a community expressing their trepidations, frustrations and support for fellow Missoulians. We here at 4and20blackbirds thought it might be wise to do a follow up post and include clips of comments from the original entry for folks to use in furthering greater conversation.

“Let’s quit mourning the loss of Jays, go to a Poverello hosted Rock Raiser at the Badlander and move on with our lives.”


“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.”

Colin Hickey

“But now there are other venues that can take its place and offer so much more, like the Badlander. The beat goes on!”

Rebecca, moderator, 4and20blackbirds

“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.”

Josh Vanek, one of the amazing organizers of Missoula’s Total Fest,


“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.”


“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!”





“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.”






“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)

Anonymous non-slanderer

“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?”


“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.”



Rebecca, moderator, 4and20blackbirds

“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 meberships 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.

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.”


Ellie Hill, Executive Director, Poverello Center

“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.”



“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 no longer exists.”


Anonymous non-slanderer

“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?”


Jedediah Redman

“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?

But it’s an enviable position to be, to be able to debate whether Missoula needs an exclusive after-hours club or not, innit?”



Jay Stevens, moderator, 4and20blackbirds

“Other cities in Montana who haven’t 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?”

goof hoolihan



“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!”


Jamee Greer, moderator, 4and20blackbirds

“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.

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.”

Joe Nickell, journalist, Missoulian/Entertainer

“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. It’s been over. Half of the Jay’s crowd is married with kids. Nostalgia can get kind of ridiculous.”



  1. goof houlihan

    Houligan? HOULIGAN!

    I CAN be a houligan…. :-)

    houlihan, if you please.

  2. goof houlihan

    and fix my apostrophe mistake will, ya? while you’re correcting your egregious blasphemy on my moniker.

  3. *points and laughs*

    See, if you had remained Noodly Appendage it would have been easy to remember. ;-)

  4. Jim Lang

    There always will be a need for a place like the Pov…. unless you really believe we can achieve utopia here on earth… I don’t.

    Whether or not there is a need for ‘The Loft’ is something we will learn in due course. I mean there already are a lot of great downtown clubs, imho. Are there really enough folks who so object to hanging out with ‘the Great Unwashed’ that they are willing to drop this huge monthly fee? I doubt it….

  5. Ayn Rand

    when will you begin a march on th Country Club?? Let me know, I’ll spread the word.

  6. Jedediah Redman

    “I’d rather use that idealism and bitterness to focus my energy on social change in my twenties—rather than bottle it in until my seventies and regret that I hadn’t done something when I still could.”

    When you are in your seventies, little fellow, remember your words.
    I feel like I’ve failed, certainly; but I’ll always know I tried like hell…

    “There always will be a need for a place like the Pov…. unless you really believe we can achieve utopia here on earth… I don’t.”

    Certainly there will never be a better world unless there is a little concentrated effort to make it better.
    Believing that Charity will suffice is kind like believing that God will provide.
    Tithes simply cannot feed the hungry, heal the sick, nor shelter the cold. It will require a taxation that will redistribute not only the wealth but also the suffering….

  7. g. hooligan

    ” redistribute not only the wealth but also the suffering”

    “when will you begin a march on the Country Club”

    “hooligan” appreciates these posts. They kick ASS! Yeah, the communist and the deep thinker contributing just like the hooligan!

    “Metal guru, is it you?”

  8. Jamee Greer

    Sorry goof houlihan! It has been fixed!

  9. Janet A Robideau

    As the Executive Director of Montana People’s Action, it was news to me to read that we have “closed our doors”. Did someone forget to tell me about it?? If anyone knows anything about non-profit social justice it is that money ebbs and flows. We have dedicated staff who are sacrificing paychecks but they are all still employed. Perhaps folks should ensure that what they are believing is actually believable – this is how rumors get started!

    janet robideau

  10. petetalbot

    Thanks for the comment, Janet, good to hear from you. Montana Peoples Action and Indian Peoples Action are still fighting the fight and everyone’s support is greatly appreciated. These folks do great work.

  1. 1 Books News » Blog Archive » By Jamee Greer (While many members of Missoula’s community enjoy …

    […] By Jamee Greer (While many members of Missoula’s community enjoy …By Jamee GreerI 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, …4&20 blackbirds – […]

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