Downtown Great Falls is a lot different than it was 10 years ago. There’s more life, more commerce, and more options for entertainment and dining.
The growth and revitalization was sparked in part by a pair of Great Falls natives with deep ties to the community who took a leap of faith and brought something new to downtown.
Seth Swingley still remembers the first day that Might Mo Brewing Company opened for business on Central Avenue during the 2013 Christmas Stroll.
“We still talk about it every year around this time. It was like 32 degrees below zero,” Swingley said. “It was, it was nuts. We were struggling to figure out how to run a business and not freeze it at the same time.”
Swingley and his partner Casey Kingsland have learned a lot since that night. And on their 10th anniversary the first brewery in downtown Great Falls is thriving. Their beer is distributed across the state and beyond, they host successful community events on a near weekly basis, and their tap room has become a central gathering point for anyone venturing downtown.
A lot has happened in 10 years, but Swingley and Kingsland are most proud of the difference their business has made in the community.
“Oh, it's been pretty fast. Ten years, it’s crazy,” Kingsland said. “It seems like the busier we are, the more time flies. So it's been a busy ten years and we’re pretty fortunate to be be busy.”
But a decade ago, success wasn’t such a sure thing.
“We thought getting money from the banks would be a lot easier. And we were told no a ton. And rightfully so,” Swingley said. “Like the more times we were told no, the more research we had to do, the more we had to learn about the business. And the more you learn about the business, the more comfortable you get with that risk.”
Sure there were plenty of bars in downtown Great Falls, but there had never been a brewery. Their current location wasn’t even their first choice. But they were willing to find a building owner that wanted to invest in the area and allowed them to remodel a building into a brewing operation and tap house.
“Downtown wasn't really thriving at that time. So that made us a little nervous, but we did some research, realized what breweries can do in areas of town to revitalize,” Swingley said. “Just kind of went from there and thought, it's kind of a challenge.”
And they’ve had to roll with the changes. Like many business owners, Swingley said dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest challenge that the Mighty Mo has faced. They had to transition from primarily a brewery to more of a restaurant.
They’ve made plenty of changes to their operations, but the vibe and atmosphere of the space remains just as inviting as the day they opened.
“It’s awesome that we can fill the taproom with people coming in and enjoying themselves,” Kingsland said. “We got people from all classes that come in and and hang out and it just has that community type of feel.”
The Mighty Mo has also shown a willingness to work with other businesses to make Great Falls a more vibrant place.
“We decided early we were going to take the mentality of let's help the guy next door. Let's figure out how to help them get open and open their busines,” Swingley said. “And I think that mentality has helped a lot because it's like a snowball effect. And when you're trying to revitalize an area of town, that's what you need. You can't have people just looking out for their own business and not wanting to see other businesses succeed. It just doesn't work when you're trying to revitalize.”
Kingsland, who handles the brewing side of the business, agreed.
“We got a lot of help from other from brewery owners when we opened. We want to help other businesses grow as well,” he said. “We’re not just concerned about our business here. The more people we get downtown, the better off we're going to be.”
The Mighty Mo is celebrating their 10-year anniversary with several events. Tuesday is customer appreciation night, Wednesday will feature a party at the Newberry featuring country artist Mark Wills, Saturday will see local band 50 Watt Sun play in the tap room, and Sunday the Mighty Mo will serve its first ever brunch.