Norm’s News has been a cornerstone of downtown Kalispell for nearly 80 years. The business has grown and changed with the times—it has been a pool hall, diner, candy shop, and more—but it has always been a dependable gathering place for locals and visitors.
In its modern iteration, Norm’s sells sweets, magazines, and classic diner fare. Stepping into the restaurant is like stepping back into the cheery 50’s, with rows of candy and magazines lining the wall, retro style furniture, and a menu that reads “Norm’s Soda Fountain: Eat Dessert First.”
Owner Beth Pirrie cares about the business’ roots, and though she adapts to meet modern customers’ needs, she knows that tradition is what makes Norm’s special.
When Norm Schappaeker purchased the building, then called the John McIntosh Opera House Square, in 1938, it was already 42 years old and had served the community as a ballroom, theater, and roller skating rink. After a successful run under Norm’s leadership, Bill and Pat Shields bought the store in 1967, and in 1989 Beth’s father-in-law, Gordon Pirrie, took the helm.
Gordon oversaw Norm’s for nearly two decades before he considered passing the legacy on. The family members had loved spending their childhood at Norm’s and hoped the tradition would continue for their own kids, but Beth’s husband, who runs Western Outdoor, a western retailer next door, had his hands full. So Beth, a flautist who plays in the Glacier Symphony & Chorale, decided to try her hand at running the restaurant.
“We’re the third family to own Norm’s,” Beth said. “We take pride in that, it makes it special. Norm’s is part of our family, a member of our family.”
Beth took over eight years ago, and Norm’s has continued to flourish under her watch. It enjoys great retention with its longtime employees, and also serves as reliable employment for local teens looking for their first gig.
“It’s a great community and the community itself is so educated on the local dollar,” Beth said. “They are willing to support local businesses—that’s what good about doing business here.”
Beth says that she has noticed a change downtown, “in a positive direction,” and is excited to see how Kalispell grows in the future. However the town changes, though, she hopes that Norm’s will always be a time capsule.
“We hope to continue the tradition of what we have, we’re tradition oriented,” she said. “People keep coming back for the same thing.”
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