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    Montana Convenience Market Thins

    Helena's last downtown convenience store/gas station closes its doors.

    HELENA, Mont. -- Convenience stores got a little less convenient in Helena, Mont., this week as Noon's, the city's only downtown gas station and convenience store, closed its doors for the last time.

    No more 69-cent soda refills. No more two hot dogs for a buck. No more corn nuts on the go.

    Starbucks Coffee is looking to open its third business in Helena, just a few blocks away from five other downtown coffee shops, signaling that coffee houses replete with Internet access and upscale seating is a concept that is very appealing to urban customers.

    According to the Helena Independent Record, by 8 a.m. yesterday, the beer trucks had taken over Noon's small parking lot. Vendors paraded from the store toting cases of beer, water and soda.

    Coffee machines were dismantled, gas pumps were covered and customers were sent away empty handed.

    Curt Scott pulled up in his pickup truck to get a morning shot of soda. The work day had just begun when store managers turned him away at the door. The 24-hour store, he was told, was now closed.

    A few minutes later, managers stopped another man at the door. He wasn't happy to hear the news. "I usually get my tobacco and beer here," the customer told the Record. "I don't even know where the other stores are."

    Noon's vice president Bill Nooney said the store just wasn't profitable. Earlier this year, Noon's closed another store in Helena. The Missoula, Mont.-based company still has two other stores in town, each located well outside the downtown district, the report said.

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