Our History

THE HISTORY OF POWER TOWNSEND

Power Townsend Company started in 1867 at Fort Benton in the Montana Territory as T. C. Power and I. G. Baker formed mining and supply stores. Power's first home in Montana Territory was at Fort Benton; head of navigation on the Missouri River. The Fort Benton Transportation Company, the progenitor of the supply and mercantile stores, had been formed by Power and Baker in 1867 as well.

T. C. Power and Brother Proprietorship was founded by Thomas Charles, John W. Charles Benton, and John Merlin Power. T. C. Power and Brother was a Power family enterprise from the Fort Benton founding in 1867 until March 4, 1944, when Charles Benton Power sold the capital stock of 900 shares in the Power Townsend Company to Cornelius Michael Wall, who had "married" into the Power mercantile organization back in 1923. After 1887, John W. Power (T. C.'s brother), was headquartered in the Steamboat Block in Helena, MT. In 1901, after John W.'s death, his son John M. Power assumed the executive director's position in the Steamboat Block.

This building under John W. and John M. Power was the center of operations for the chain of mercantile supply firms that extended throughout the Upper Missouri River Valley as well as up or down its tributaries in such places as Fort Benton, Fort Shaw, Lewistown, Carroll, Fort Peck, and Fort Clagget. Power stores could be found also in the Madison and Gallatin River valleys. One example was the Belgrade Mercantile Company in Belgrade, MT just west of Bozeman, MT (which is southeast of Helena).
General supply firms were found in Fairfield-Simms, Cascade, Great Falls, Havre and up to and through the Canadian border with posts in Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Moose Jaw in Alberta and Saskatchewan. John W. Power had arranged the supply forts or towns to be near the local Native American or Native stock in Canada with whom a large exchange of goods took place. After nearly a century in the Steamboat Block it was time to move on.

Power Townsend left 618 Helena Avenue for 3085 North Montana Avenue in 1973 and became a building materials supermarket. This concept relied much more on the customer serving themselves with staff acting as helpers and consultants. Sales occurred when the customer needed the best, most efficient power tools and materials to complete the daily or weekend task, whether contract or personal. Customers settled accounts with the Power Townsend checkout cashiers (one of whom was Aunt Patricia Wall). This approach to sales was a big change from the traditional Power Townsend clerk waiting upon each customer and meeting that customer’s needs. Construction projects placed more emphasis upon the consultative approach with the use of suggestion, discussion, problem solving and direction toward the product(s) to be used and then offering the needed products at an appealing, competitive price. The old-fashioned method of a clerk/salesperson handling each sale - be it one stove bolt, a 220-volt ¾ horsepower electric bench saw, or 24 squares of composition roofing material -  progressed to the modern salesman handing off customers to a cashier who finalized each deal with Power Townsend Company.

In response to the opening of the Home Depot store near the Helena airport off I -15, with its 80,000+ sq. ft. of display space and its emphasis on the promotion of building materials, Mike Wall, President of Power Townsend, decided to secure a $4,000,000 loan from the Mountain West Bank to expand the sales floor of Power Townsend Company in order to compete effectively with Home Depot. To some degree this was a leap of faith by Mike and his son Kevin Wall, but lack of expansion to meet the Home Depot threat would likely have resulted in a reduction of Power Townsend sales on the order of 40 to 50 percent! So in the fall of 2002 Mike and Kevin contracted with the Dick Anderson Construction Company for the massive expansion in floor space for Power Townsend Company.
In May of 2010 we finished a new remodel to include a design center with Flooring, Appliances, Cabinets and an improved computer system. Come in and see what Helena has built!

 

Top of Page