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Yellowstone TV series bringing people, money to Bitterroot Valley businesses

Yellowstone Bitterroot Tourism
Posted at 10:39 AM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 12:39:13-05

Now that the popular TV series Yellowstone has run for a few seasons, it's not shocking to see Kevin Costner walking around in downtown Missoula or at the rodeo.

But what may be shocking is the impact the show is having — not just on the tourism industry — but on local businesses in the Bitterroot.

A recently released economic study from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) and the school's Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR) shows that in 2021, Yellowstone brought more than two million people and $730 million in spending to Montana.

Despite the show taking place in Yellowstone, it is actually filmed in Western Montana, and it’s no secret that fans of the show spend money at local shops while visiting.

Dutton Ranch
The Dutton Ranch from the TV series Yellowstone in Darby.

We headed down to Hamilton and Darby to check out how some small businesses have been impacted and how many local stores have a hand in helping to create the TV show.

“They’re very, very fun to work with. They’ll come in and say ‘can we make a pile?’ And by the time they leave, it’s considerable. So, it’s been very good for business,” Rebecca Ryan who owns the Bitterroot Antique Mall in Hamilton.

“I talk to the set designer a couple times a year for sure knowing when they’re going to be back,” added Michael Swanson who owns the Old West Antiques Gallery and Candy Store in Darby. “So, we do have a small warehouse that I keep reserves in, and she always wants to see that just to see if there’s something they can use.”

Ryan
Rebecca Ryan owns the Bitterroot Antique Mall in Hamilton

Not only do the stores see set production staff, but they see everyone, from stars to the working crew.

The two Bitterroot Valley store owners say that Yellowstone has brought a boom in business.

A lot of the foot traffic comes from tourists who are either just visiting the state or specifically in town to see where the TV series is filmed.

“Their three questions are: Where do we eat? Hence the reason why we put in the deli. Where do we stay? And where’s the Yellowstone Ranch?” Swanson told MTN News.

Swanson
Michael Swanson owns the Old West Antiques Gallery and Candy Store in Darby

The communities of Hamilton and Darby — while seeing more people than ever — are still feeling the closeness of their small town and would like to keep their community connection strong.

“I am one of those people that says if you’re gonna come here, remember why you left where you left and embrace what we have,” Ryan said.

Yellowstone has brought money into the Treasure State, providing a financial boost that is helping treasured local businesses flourish.