Barbara Ximnoch always knew that she wanted to open her own store. So when the Great Falls Village Center opened up almost 29 years ago, she took the jump and leased a space.
“I always wanted to have a gift shop, so the Village Center opened and, voila, I was here,” said Ximnoch, 67, owner of the Golden Pineapple.
Ximnoch was not deterred by the fact that she was a woman entrepreneur with no prior business experience.
“I just went headlong into it,” she said. “You get ideas, you think you can do it and you go for it.”
Last month, after nearly three decades, Ximnoch decided to close shop and retire. Over the years, the Golden Pineapple became somewhat of a community institution — particularly among local women.
“This is where the women chatted all day long,” said Ximnoch, who has lived in Great Falls for 30 years. “You name it, we talked about it.”
“It was a ladies’ ‘Cheers,’” said Marni Thomason, one of three women who own the gift shop A Special Touch, which has taken over the Golden Pineapple space.
Thomason, Cathy Moran and Kim Garten originally opened A Special Touch in a section of the Great Falls Village Center store A Silk Purse on Feb. 13, 2007. Although the three friends had only planned on running a part-time business in a small space, the operation quickly outgrew their initial vision. So when Thomason, Moran and Garten found out that Barbara Ximnoch planned to retire, they knew instantly that they had found their new home — and for Ximnoch, it was a relief to know that she would be leaving her space in good hands.
“I think their stuff is adorable — absolutely adorable,” said Ximnoch.
Although many of her loyal customers have been disconcerted to discover that their beloved Golden Pineapple has morphed into something else, Ximnoch said seeing a new store in her old shop does not upset her at all.
“It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “I expected it to be different — this is their stuff, not mine.”
A SPECIAL TOUCH officially opened shop in the Golden Pineapple space on June 13, and thus far, business is booming.
“It’s become full-time and then some,” said Garten.
Ximnoch said the Great Falls Village Center was more of a community gathering place when she first opened the Golden Pineapple so many years ago.
“We had a dog show — they were so cute the little doggies — and we had a wonderful craft show and antiques shows,” said Ximnoch. “We just had all kinds of different things.”
She also recalls a time when mothers would let their children play in the Village Green while they shopped.
“There is nothing nicer than watching children play in the green grass,” said Ximnoch. “That’s what the grass is for. They’re off the street and they’re not going to get hit by a car.”
Thomason, Moran and Garten are all interested in bringing the activities from Ximnoch’s days back to the Village Center.
“We’re interested in bringing these things back,” said Moran. “Barbara has shared a lot of the history of the Village Center with us and we want to help revive some of that … we think it’s important to keep up the traditions and talk to your predecessor. Of course it’s important to be fresh and new as well, but there’s a lot to be learned and it’s fun knowing how it used to be.”