For Missoula's Tremper family, business is a way of life, no matter the market challenges. Determination has persisted for three generations, and shows no sign of slowing down.
Trempers Shopping Center has been a business landmark for more than 60-years, adapting and changing, including a major upgrade following the Great Recession. Now, the family is wrapping up another step forward, completing the removal of four failing buildings and construction of the new "Kent Plaza".
“It's something that we had been thinking about for quite a while," explains Debbie Williams. "But it needed so much help we had to decide if it was a total scrape or to keep the exterior walls. And so we we kept the same footprint and eliminated one building and move forward.”
Glenn Tremper says the family, which operates as Tremper Shopping Center, Inc. wanted something that would compliment the existing main center, but also to do something fresh.
"We wanted something new, but we didn't want it to look just like the existing legacy center. And so something that definitely would speak to this point of time in Missoula's architectural history."
Now, the family says it has completely leased the new property, including Oddpitch Brewing Company, Inspire Physical Therapy & Wellness, financial services firm Waddell & Reed with an unbeatable view from the new second story, The Nail Place, Beatty Eyes and Rice Thai Fine Cuisine.
"We're really liking that this is all pretty much local people," Mary Ann Moseley says. "They're all family owned or close to being family owned. So let's be local for us and support our local community.”
Moseley says they miss the tenants that had to move, but are excited about replacements, including the new Zootown Laundry.
“Yes, we have 10 new tenants and we're super excited for everybody to get open and running and by probably the end of fall, everybody will be open," Williams says with excitement.
"We've got some great tenants who are places you can go and and spend several hours, you know, throwing axes or drinking a beer of having a meal. And that's kind of what we were trying to do, is to have a place where people could come and spend some time," says Tremper.
The family admits it wasn't easy finishing the project during a pandemic, but all that experience over the decades helped them meet the challenge.
Tremper notes the pandemic started just months after the project was launched.
"You know, of course a lot of our work was being in the permit stage and the city was reviewing many of the documents. Of course the city employees couldn't work and so they had to adapt."
“It made it really interesting," laughs Williams with obvious relief. "Getting materials, getting permits. The materials were a problem but we have a wonderful crew getting everything done and now we're here and we're so excited.”
Mosely sees the Kent Plaza as a major accomplishment for Missoula, and the family.
“The three of us were proud of our main center. But now to be able to put this together and expand the business opportunities for Midtown Missoula, expand the beautiful nature of Midtown, we're just really pleased with how this has come together.”
And in the background, I'm sure you can hear grandfather William Tremper cheering.
"We do know it's a legacy, we want to see it thrive. We want to see it thrive and grow on into the next generations," Tremper tells me. "We want to see Missoula thrive. And so that's been part of the joy here. Is to just be as good of stewards as we can, of this legacy, while supporting the business side of it as well."
While some of the businesses in Kent Plaza are already open, others are being completed. A grand opening is planned this fall.