BUTTE, Mont. – There may be no better example of “Butte Tough” than the community rallying around M&M Bar and Café Owner Selina Pankovich just a week after the loss of the historic uptown staple.
The importance of the more than a century old building can be seen on the fence separating the rubble remains of the M&M and Main Street in Uptown Butte marked by flowers.
“I was taken around the building by one of the firemen who said, ‘Hey we’re going to have to knock the building down to get the fire out,’” Pankovich said. “It’s not a death but it’s like contemplating pulling somebody’s life support off.”
Despite the loss, one heroic act stands out on the day of the fire when Leonard Hunter, from Hunter Brothers Construction, gently lifted the iconic M&M Cigar Store sign off the façade of the building.
Butte firefighters gently removed the neon off the sign before collapsing the building in on itself to contain the smoldering debris and not damage nearby businesses.
“I mean that sign is in perfect condition ready to go right up, you know back on the wall, I’m sure it needs some electrical work done but it’s just amazing how that all happened,” Pankovich said.
Several different types of community fundraisers started up once Pankovich decided she would start the long journey of bringing the M&M back.
Nearby business owner John Wick of 5518 Designs got right to work by creating M&M themed t-shirts with all proceeds going towards a rebuild.
“We released it the Monday afternoon and within hours we had 200 orders,” Wick said.
A neighboring bookstore How Novel joined in with a 10% discount and pledging to match the 10% to donate to the M&M rebuilding effort.
Kelly Merrick, a close family friend of Pankovich, started a GoFundMe hoping the money can help out in any way in the rebuilding efforts.
"The M&M is iconic to Butte and Selina was able to bring it back, it was amazing, and my hopes are that the community of Butte will be able to help bring it back to the place we know and love," Merrick said.
Pankovich worked for the previous owner for two years before taking over as the sole owner in 2017.
“I wanted to bring back things like Steak Night, Super Saturday and pulling off St. Patrick’s Day in not just a party-mode but in a classy way,” Pankovich said. “The potential was always there, and I didn’t have to do a lot, what it needed was time, attention and needed me to be hearing what people were asking for.”
Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher said the owner of the M&M, Selina Pankovich, is "the glue" for the Music on Main event hosted during the summer and are working to figure out an alternative.
“We’re going to make sure that we help that survive for our community, we already lost the Folk Fest on An Ri Ra, that tells you the character of the owner of this building, she was doing something to really do some great for our community so now it’s time for us to step up and do something great for her,” Gallagher said.
Pankovich said they hope to finalize the change in plans for the Music on Main event in the coming weeks and expect to move the event a block up the street.
“I just can’t put it into words, I don’t know how to thank anybody properly, I guess ultimately the best thank you I can give anybody will be to put the M&M back,” Pankovich said.