A year after the Mission Mountain Mercantile in Condon burned to the ground, its owners have broken ground on its replacement.Manager Grace Siloti said she and her partner, part owner Len Kobylenski, hope to have the new general store built and open to the public by fall.For decades, the “Merc” was an important gathering place for locals in the Swan Valley. Kobylenski opened the grocery store, deli and gas station in 1979 and in the years since it became an important pit stop for locals and those traveling through the remote area. But it all came crashing down on the early morning of May 18, 2016, when the store caught fire. The blaze destroyed the building and everything inside. The cause of the fire has never been determined.For a few months, Kobylenski and Siloti went back and forth on whether they would rebuild. But Siloti said they came to a conclusion: “You can’t have a community without a general store.”So the couple got to work designing a general store that will be “better than ever,” said Siloti. The new building will maintain the old mercantile’s rustic charm, but will have more windows to look out at the mountains that surround the Swan Valley.“It’s going to be the coolest store ever,” Siloti said. “And it will still have the big front porch that everyone loved.”Having the store back will help local residents, especially senior citizens who struggled to get the supplies they needed during an especially harsh winter. Siloti said there were some occasions where local residents had to tread treacherous roads to go grocery shopping in either Seeley Lake or Bigfork.Siloti said if one positive emerged from the ordeal it’s that the community pulled together and helped neighbors in need. She said whenever people were heading to Seeley Lake or Bigfork, they would ask what others need. She said attitudes like that are what makes places like Condon special and why they are proud to be a part of the community.“I have never seen a community come together like that,” she said. “I don’t think this community has ever been closer.” Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.
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