BILLINGS — The Hart Albin building in downtown Billings has long been an iconic space. Constructed in 1917, it has housed many businesses over the years, and a new tenant moved in Thursday from just down the street.
Vendors from YesterYears Antique Mall began filling the lower-level space at Hart Albin on Broadway while reflecting on memories made in the original YesterYears location on North 29th Street.
"Being here as a vendor at YesterYears Antique Mall has been a great experience. We’ve seen transitions with owners, and it’s always gone smoothly," said Rene Beyl, a vendor at YesterYears, on Thursday. "Danny (Kramer) and all of his crew have been very positive through all of this change and we’re excited."
The building on 29th Street is full of history, and it isn’t just from the antiques.
"The building was actually broken up into four businesses," said Austin Kramer, the general manager of YesterYears, on Wednesday. "The middle (level) was an after-school pool hall, and this section that we’re standing in now, the right quarter, was a tailor shop. Directly below us was a dance studio."
Kramer said the original building, located at 102 N. 29th St., was constructed in 1928 but burned down in 1932. His father, Danny, owns the antique mall.
While employees, vendors, and patrons alike are sad to leave, they're looking forward to a new chapter.
“We’re really excited about the location. The Hart Albin building used to be the place to shop. It hasn’t had anything retail in it in over 25 years," Kramer said. "It’s going to be really cool that we get to open the doors and let people come in this iconic building again."
On Thursday morning, YesterYears vendors began packing up their booths and transitioning to the Hart Albin building, located at 208 N. Broadway.
"It’s really cool to see all of this happening. But it’s a little sad to see it go away because it’s history,” said Rene Beyl, a vendor at YesterYears, on Thursday. "I remember going to Hart Albin as a kid. We’d go down the escalator to shop for clothes for school."
Kramer said his father has been keeping an eye out for Hart Albin antiques over the past few months.
"We have found a few things over the years with Hart Albin price tags. We have an original of Hart Albin wrapping paper that they would wrap clothing in. And then most recently, at an auction, we purchased four service counters that were used in the '30s at Hart Albin,” Kramer said. "We don’t know what department used them, but they have the original crown molding, the original iconic department store look."
Shadowboxes in the building showcase memories from years past.
"The company that owns the building put a huge stake in history. They have shadowboxes as you walk in the Broadway entrance," Kramer said. "They’re locked up behind glass. They have old cash registers, typewriters, all sorts of things from historical Hart Albin. So anytime we find something, we’re actually allowed to add it to their collection."
Everyone is ready to make new memories—and sales—in the old space.
"I think this is an upgrade for us," said Kramer. "We get to be a part of Broadway, a part of the central, downtown Billings under Skypoint."
The YesterYears team is tentatively planning on opening on March 1 and looks forward to welcoming its customers back.
To learn more about future plans for the former YesterYears location on 29th Street, click here.
To learn more about YesterYears, click here.