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Canyon Creek Country Store carries on

With a history spanning more than 130 years, the Canyon Creek Store has survived depressions, recessions, epidemics, pandemics and sundry blizzards and nearby forest fires.

The store, which is also reputed to be the longest-serving post office in Montana, checks a lot of boxes when it comes to being essential in a COVID-19 world, providing postal service, gasoline and groceries for residents of the rural area northwest of Helena and travelers from the Upper Blackfoot.

This year, owner Myrna Crawford is taking the coronavirus pandemic- the second major pandemic to hit the US during the store's long history - in stride.

"Business has picked up a little bit because people don't want to go into town," she said. "A few of the things I have around here that normally don't go off the shelves have been going off the shelves."

The small store has the essentials but doesn't carry the amount of stock a full grocery store does, so Crawford hasn't seen an influx of people from outside the area come in to buy or hoard things. She has kept an eye on her toilet paper supply to make sure no one buys out her entire stock, but said most of her customers are locals or folks who feel the need to get out of the house, and stop in for a refreshment or snack.

Crawford has also been receiving her full shipments of beer, dairy and snack items without a problem but, since she's seeing more grocery sales than normal she has found some items, such as bags of flour, are scarce when she goes into Helena to restock.

Economically speaking Crawford's not too concerned about herself or her business yet, but she realizes the impact it's had on others.

"I feel for the other establishments like the restaurants, bars and casinos that have to be closed," she said. She hopes to see the restrictions ease up if people keep up with the necessary precautions like wearing masks and social distancing.

For her part, she said she's disinfecting packages that come through the post office, and is taking extra precautions in the store.

"I wear gloves while I'm sorting the mail and while I'm doing transactions and handling money," she said. She's also trying not to handle people's purchases beyond holding their bags while they put their items in. She also keeps a container of Clorox wipes on hand by the door for customers to use.

"People are scared," Crawford said. "We're just trying to do our best to make sure people feel comfortable when they come in the store."

If all goes well, Crawford said they will re-open their ice cream parlor on the first of May.

"I'm very appreciative of the people in the community who have supported us through this time," she said. "(We're) being as careful as we can and we will carry on. Keep calm and carry on."


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