Stokes Market and an adjoining True Value hardware franchise is pictured here at 1301 Harrison Ave. Stokes, an Idaho-based grocery chain with locations in Montana, Idaho and Utah, told The Montana Standard Monday that it plans to liquidate the grocery store to make way for an expansion of True Value, which will be moved north to the current location of Stokes Market.

Stokes Market in Butte is doubling down on its True Value franchise with a planned expansion of the hardware retailer at the market's Harrison Avenue location. But the move comes at the expense of the grocery store, which will close.

Other Stokes Market locations, including the one in Anaconda, will not be affected.

John Stokes, co-owner and president of the Idaho-based grocery chain, said Monday the company will begin selling off its grocery inventory at its Butte location at 1301 Harrison Ave. immediately in order to make way for the True Value expansion.

Starting May 1, the store will offer 20 percent discounts on all items except for hardware for a duration of two weeks. In the following weeks, sales will increase to 30 percent and 50 percent off, respectively.

Stokes Market operates at the former location of Butte’s Albertson’s store.

After a national merger between Safeway Inc. and Albertson’s occurred in 2014, Stokes agreed to purchase the Butte Albertson’s and a Safeway in Anaconda, taking over both locations in 2015.

In 2016, the company opened True Value to the south of Stokes Market, directly adjacent to the grocery store. The Stokes Market and True Value are connected, offering direct access between the two stores, with True Value functioning as a department within the grocery store.

Stokes said the company hopes to sell its remaining grocery inventory within a month. Once that’s complete, the company will begin the process of moving True Value from its more than 8,000-square-foot location to the spot currently occupied by the grocery. The new hardware store will be around 18,000 square feet, he said, adding that the company plans to complete the move by Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, the company hopes to secure tenants for the former True Value spot, along with additional space on the north side that will not be occupied by the new hardware store.

Around 30 full-time and 20 part-time employees currently work at Stokes Market in Butte.

Stokes said the company will do its best to help displaced employees find new work. Some positions will become available at the Anaconda Stokes and an adjoining True Value that’s currently under construction, while True Value in Butte will be hiring for its expanded location. Meanwhile, Stokes said he’s willing to reach out to employers on behalf of displaced workers.

“We’re going to try to find something for everybody,” said Stokes of Butte employees, adding that employees are the “lifeblood of our business.”

The news of Stoke's liquidation comes on the heels of the loss of another grocery store in Butte.

In mid-March, Uptown grocer Hennessy Market posted a sign on its Granite Street doors notifying customers that the market "will be closed until further notice." As of Monday afternoon, the store remained closed. Since the store closed, attempts to reach the store’s owner by The Montana Standard have been unsuccessful.

Grocery shoppers who spoke with The Standard Monday gave dispassionate reactions to the news.

Joe McDonnell said Stokes isn't his main grocery store but he stopped by Monday because the store was along his route.

McDonnell, who works in the construction industry, expressed concern about how True Value's expansion will impact other retailers in the industry and whether the expansion might over-saturate the market.

"The last thing we need is another (hardware store)," he said.

Jim Stearns, a Whitehall resident, does most of his shopping at the town's Jefferson Fresh Foods, but every now and then he likes to travel to Butte when he wants something more than what his local grocery offers or just wants a change of scenery.

"It's a good store," he said of Stokes. "I'm sad that they're closing."

Another shopper, Ashley Williams of Butte, said she does most of her shopping at Safeway, so the transition won't impact her, while a man named Mark, who asked to not use his last name, said he tries to support all of Butte's grocery stores and likes having more options than just Walmart.

When asked if he's satisfied with what's available in Butte, he said he would like more natural and organic options. Hennessy had some products that fit the niche, but not as many as he would have liked.

Stokes, meanwhile, said True Value will continue to carry select popular items found at the grocery, including Stokes signature spices, Frito-Lay, Coke and Pepsi products, cooking appliances and more. Similarly, customers will see a wider selection of pet food and batteries.

The reason for the expansion, Stoke said, is based on the success of the Butte hardware store.

According to the president, True Value has seen the percent growth of it sales increase by double digits each year since opening in 2016. Based on that, company leadership hopes to grow True Value into a full hardware store, replete with a more diverse selection.

“We made a very difficult decision to expand (our hardware offering),” said Stokes.

The company also plans to extend the reach of the True Value brand into Anaconda, where construction is underway on a 16,500-square-foot retail space next to its grocery at 1525 W. Park Ave. Like the Butte True Value, the hardware section will function as a department within the grocery.

Should all go according to plan, the Anaconda True Value will host a grand opening in June. Stokes said he anticipates the Anaconda workforce will grow from about 36 to 50 employees.

When asked whether Butte needs more retail space devoted to hardware, Stokes said that, based on Butte’s population of nearly 35,000 and the success of True Value, there’s no question in his mind that the Mining City has the capacity to support multiple hardware stores.

“There’s a demand there,” he said.

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for The Montana Standard.

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