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Billings Depot launches Paddles & Wheels pop-up shop run by interns

Rents outdoor recreation gear to tourists & locals
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Posted at 5:50 AM, May 11, 2023

BILLINGS — The Billings Depot is launching a new pop-up shop this summer called Paddles and Wheels, and it's completely run by college interns.

It's their chance to run a business and the public’s chance to rent a bike, a paddle board or other outdoor equipment and check out the great outdoors.

“It’s really exciting,” says Billings Depot Executive Director Michelle Williams.

First on the list is training her interns on media relations and publicity, spending a morning shooting interviews and video with KTVQ.

“Paddles and Wheels is a collaboration between Scheels and the Billings Depot to introduce the first pop-up rental shop to downtown Billings,” says Mette Fears, Paddles & Wheels intern and Rocky Mountain College student.

For convenience, locals and tourists alike can pick up rental equipment at The Post’s Paddles & Wheels pop up shop downtown, or at Scheels on the west end.

“We’re going to have paddle boards, bicycles, e-bikes, mountain bikes, city bikes, kayaks and all of the safety equipment and car racks,” says Natalie Jennings, Paddles & Wheels intern and MSU-Billings student.

Marketing and pricing are a big part of this real-world business management experience for the students, who are attending Rocky Mountain College, the University of Montana and MSU-Billings.

“I’m super excited to get the experience under my belt as a marketing major. I'm excited to do social media and promotion for this, and I'm really excited to use the equipment myself and get outdoors more,” says Jennings.

When it comes to customer service standards, logistics and equipment management, Scheels is the students’ mentor.

“We'll also have one model of paddle board. It's inflatable, fairly compact, it all fits in a backpack with its pump and the fin detaches for storage,” says Andrew Sennett, Scheels service shop technician.

The shop is perfect for a day on the lake, enjoying Montana's great outdoors. That’s exactly the idea, as two Montana tourism grants fund the internship program. The two grants are: the Eastern Montana Initiative Tourism Grant Award and the Visit Southeast Montana Cooperative Grant.

“It's geared both towards people in Billings who are just looking to test out equipment or use it for the day or half-day, as well as tourists who are looking to enjoy the outdoors. All of our equipment is beginner-friendly,” says Fears.

The pop up shop Paddles and Wheels is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.