In Butte, Montana, holiday shoppers “spent a lot, smiled a lot”
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The Census Bureau will release its estimate of December retail sales next week. For a look at how holiday shopping went in Butte, Montana, “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal caught up again with Alana Ferko, manager of the Butte Plaza Mall. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kai Ryssdal: How have things been at the Butte Plaza Mall?
Alana Ferko: You know, things have been OK. Holidays were good. People just were wonderful. I miss them so much already. Yeah, they spent a lot, they smiled a lot. They made us feel good.
Ryssdal: Do you ever worry about, like, some of the macroeconomic things like inflation and people talking about recession and all that? Or are you just like, “If people come in the mall, life is good”?
Ferko: We definitely worry about it. If people are worried about it, most definitely we better pay attention. But Christmastime – I just live by the theory that people want their kids happy. So that’s usually when they will put out the money in a pinch. And this is a very generous community. We’ve got a lot of nonprofits. And you know, that always makes me feel good to be involved with that as well.
Ryssdal: Yeah, I bet. OK, so other than people shopping at the holidays, what’s been going on by you?
Ferko: Well, I think last time we spoke, I had mentioned that we were going to be a main spot for a production that was filmed here in Butte. And the production company is on hiatus right now. They are putting things into storage and wrapping it up. They’ll be gone, I think, by the end of the month and then be back late spring because another season of the production has been ordered.
Ryssdal: What was it, “1932”? Was that the name of the show?
Ferko: “1923.” You were right, though. Originally it was “1932,” but then he bumped it up to “1923.”
Ferko: They actually have rented the call center space, and they have wardrobe and some of the set decoration and props out of there. They rented our north former department store space. They used that originally for the extras, they would have 200 to 300 to 400 extras. They would all meet here, park on the mall parking lot because we have plenty of parking, get dressed, hair and makeup, have breakfast and then catch the buses and go up to the filming locations.
Ryssdal: That’s like Hollywood north for you. Hey, so look,did you meet anybody famous?
Ferko: I guess in passing I did. But no. The most famous person I met was Gator, who is the caterer and cook for the Dutton family. And that was fun. But no, I haven’t met any of the top stars.
Ryssdal: Well, maybe they’ll hear this and they’ll come seek you out. What about the walkers? Are the walkers back?
Ferko: Walkers are back, and the health department has started up their 2023 Walk With Ease. So they’re here Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We’ve got quite a contingent today. Some of the walkers used to walk at the civic center, which was also rented out to the production company. They’re going to reopen I think at the end of this month, and some of my people are kind of split on their loyalty. So they’re like, “OK, maybe we’ll just walk here on Mondays and Fridays, and we’ll walk at the civic center on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.” They’re just so funny.
Ryssdal: You got some competition for the walkers, though. I think that’s interesting.
Ferko: We have competition, yes. Well, I’m gonna say I treat them better. But we have some of them that bring us cookies. They’re just adorable.
Ryssdal: The gist of this conversation that I’m getting from you is that, as opposed to, like, a year, year and a half ago, things are actually pretty good.
Ferko: You know, yes. I’m gonna say we’re on an uptick. I think as a country, we’ve been striving for that. I know as a community we have been.
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