If you’ve spent any time in the Kalispell area, chances are you know about Sykes’ Grocery and Market.
It’s a restaurant, grocery store and pharmacy that, since current owners Doug and Judy Wise bought it in 1945, has become larger than the sum of its parts.
Located downtown and surrounded by at least five senior-citizen-filled apartment buildings, Sykes’ is a de facto senior center and a piece of local anachronistic charm for the wider population. It still sells coffee for 10 cents, a burger, fries and soda for less than $5, and serves food cafeteria style.
But in March the entire building that houses Sykes’ went on the market for $1.6 million.
“I’m not real sure I can separate my job from my personal feelings about Sykes’,” says Jim Atkinson, director of the Flathead County Agency on Aging, and a Kalispell city councilman. “For me, Sykes’ is the last vestige of old Kalispell,” he says. “A lot of folks just plain need Sykes’.”
He says the combination of inexpensive food, groceries and a pharmacy close to where seniors live is important. “Something’s going to have to take its place,” he says.
So far, Gerald Fritts is spearheading that something as chairman of the Save Sykes’ Committee. Fritts, a former low-income housing consultant, says the group is in search of a developer and commercial tenants who would preserve the spirit of the place. Fritts says all agreed at an April 14 meeting that the repair-needy 103-year-old building would have to be torn down.
Fritts’ current plan is to find a developer to build a $15 million facility on the site that offers Sykes’ current services, along with offices and low-income housing rentals. He believes government subsidies may be available to help. But the group is in a race, Fritts notes, with other developers who don’t want to maintain Sykes’ services and have already expressed an interest in buying.