Monida pass was closed on 02/03/2020 at 12:01 am, when they placed the barrier across the Barretts exit and would only allow local traffic through. Traffic past Lima was completely shut down, as no one was allowed on the roads heading south. They reopened Monida pass at 10:25 am Monday morning, which created nearly a ten and a half hour time frame where most travelers were stuck in or around the Dillon area. While this creates a great deal of stress for travelers and professionals who use the highways to transport goods and services, could this same issue open up a window of opportunity for the local Dillon businesses?
Taking a short trip out to the Gateway Travel Plaza, one could see cars backed up on the side roads, as well as semis pulled over on I-15. What if local businesses could open for these travelers who are stranded. Many restaurants and small coffee shops in Dillon have set hours, but if some of these smaller eateries were able open their business doors after hours and make the experience of being stranded in Dillon a little less stressful on those travelers, what possibilities would this open for the Dillon economy. They could show the hospitality of our town to people who otherwise may have never stopped.
One of the many issues our small town faces is how do we entice the 66,000 people a month travelling I-15 to stop in Dillon. With the recent Monida pass closures, opening up our town and helping those travelers out could be one way to leave a lasting impression on those that might have otherwise passed us by. Some people have offered Lyft services during Labor Day and also New Years Eve, but could they also offer these services to those who are parked in lots outside of town, offering rides to local restaurants, coffee shops or just a place to get warm and shop while waiting on the pass to open.
Dillon is looking at ways to bring more people into town and most suggestions have relied heavily on areas that do not interest the average traveler or that take them outside of Dillon. Downtown Dillon is a diamond in the rough; many people fail to see the potential Dillon has to offer. We have stores with the greatest grilled cheese sandwiches in Montana ( Muffaletta's ), signed memorabilia from Val Kilmer to Alice Cooper (Emporium 406), along with many great local artist shops and hangouts. We have The Patagonia Outlet that brings people from all over the world to small town Dillon, USA. The history in our buildings alone could entertain a person. Dillon just needs a way to attract those passerby cars to see us as more than small place to get gas and get back on the road. By taking just a little extra time out of our day, we could come up with ways to help those stranded while showing off our town.
If you are a business owner or just a concerned citizen that has suggestions for our town, we at Southwestern Montana News encourage you to attend one of the Chambers Convention Visitor Bureau meetings, or come to Coffee Club every Monday morning from 7:30 to 8:30 am at Sweetwater Coffee. Dillon is an amazing place with a lot of great things happening, if you have business ideas or ways to improve on things, make your voice heard. Otherwise the economy here will always stay the same, and growth will be far from our reach.