Before the October 20th Chamber After Hours event kicked off at the Choteau Senior Center, I took a few minutes to visit with Mona VanDeRiet, manager of the Center.
What’s new in your business?
Mona: What’s going on at the Senior Center is our transition from, you might say the forties, fifties, sixties, even seventies to now. There was a time when we had a lot of people here eating; maybe 20, 30 people a day and we’re now down to 10, 12 people. COVID had a lot to do with that. Because of COVID we are now allowing takeout meals. Before Covid, if you could walk through that front door, you had to sit down. The only ones that got takeout meals were the Meals on Wheels. And I think what the big news is here is our thrift store downstairs. Because COVID has affected the people coming in here, the elderly. We are relying on traffic through the thrift store and our thrift store is just thriving. Our manager is Pat Richardson and she, along with Gary Poor, have remodeled our thrift store. It is something that whether you buy anything or not, people should just come and look and see the difference.
What is the dream for the Senior Center?
Mona: Right now, there’s a couple of things we would like to get. Most importantly, seniors back. I mean, and when I’m talking seniors, I’m talking like the 80 year olds. We’ve got some 90 year olds that are still here. But we would like to get our 60 and 70 year olds, which used to be big contributors here.
Mona: They’re still working. They’re all still working. So we really can’t rely on that. But a couple things that we’re doing new here is we are working on a hands-free door, push button door, automatic door. We have in the last year gotten a new furnace.
Mona: Like I said, the improvements downstairs are amazing – especially the lighting. Right here, joining the Choteau Chamber of Commerce. We’ve never been involved in the Chamber ever, ever.This is our first time. And we have opened up the Senior Center to people. It used to be utilized a lot by wedding receptions, graduation parties. And we have started doing that more and more. We just, just getting it out to people. And people are using it. That’s been great. The charge for that is $50 and if you wanna use the kitchen, it’s another $25 right. It’s a good deal. It’s a win-win. My mom turned 90 and we had her 90th birthday party here last year and it was wonderful.
What is something people don’t know about your business?
Mona: All ages… I think there’s a misunderstanding that all ages are welcome here.
Mona: We’ve got a little boy that’s five that comes in and eats with his grandma and grandpa. Frequently. Sure. Every other Monday, twice a month. The first and third Mondays of every month the first and third Mondays of every month, we’ve got the Choteau/Teton County homeschool. And they come in and that school is busting at the seams. And so they come in from one to four on those Mondays and interact with the people playing cards, set up and play their own games. The laughter is amazing. We also have the EMTs come in once a quarter and do free screenings.
What does your ideal customer look like?
Mona: Just one with a smile!
Is there anyone in particular that you’re looking for to walk through the door?
Mona: Not really. All ages are welcome, like I said. In the old days. And, you know, I’m well into my seventies but in, so I’m the “old days”, but the senior center was, just for seniors.
Mona: But we have, especially with the thrift store, we’ve got all ages that come through these doors and interact with us. So it’s worked out really well. We’re really unique. There’s four senior centers in Teton County. We are the largest being the county seat, but because we have the thrift store, It has allowed us to be more active.
Any plans that you want folks to know about for for Christmas time, Thanksgiving?
Mona: I wrote my article in the paper about it that’s going out this next week that we here may not put up our Christmas trees early or do our baking early, but in order to keep up with the big box stores, and keep everybody shopping local, we have started in the last two or three years to put out our seasonal items early. We did it with our Halloween and Thanksgiving, and it’s almost all gone. As soon as we finish with the Chamber After Hours tonight, the 1st of November; out comes the probably four or five tables of Christmas things. And it’ll be you know, it’ll be that first week in November just so we can you know, people have their trees up Thanksgiving. Just so we can keep people in Choteau and offer them things that are; We really go through our items, so we try not to put out junk.
The Chamber Spotlight is a series highlighting member businesses of the Choteau Chamber of Commerce. Interested in having your business highlighted in a Chamber Spotlight? Chamber members can contact the Chamber at: firstname.lastname@example.org