Local food-and-beverage businesses steeped in the outdoors.
Bozeman is packed with burgeoning small businesses and the town’s outdoors-obsessed populace is a constant vehicle for their growth. Now, alcohol, sugar, and caffeine have made the world go round since Christ was young, but here in Bozeman, the outdoors creep into even the most established industries. Here’s a profile of some of our favorite local companies, all of whom share an intimate bond with outdoor recreation.
Crackin’ a Cold Snack
After a long day on the river, you’ve finally saddled up on your favorite Bozeman barstool. A PBR would do, but it’d sure be nice to support a Montana company that gives back to the community. Enter Bozeman duo Jeremy Gregory and Chad Zeitner and their 16-oz brainchild, Montucky Cold Snacks.
“It’s kind of a love story,” Gregory says about the “blind date” a mutual friend set them up on after realizing Gregory and Zeitner had similar business ideas. At first, Gregory thought Zietner might steal his ideas, but during a meeting at the Bacchus, they both reached for the same fry, a la Lady and the Tramp, and from then on, it was champagne-powder easy.
Well, not quite. “There were so many things we didn’t know about the industry,” Zeitner remembers, and without finances for a prototype, he would pitch the beer using a can wrapped with a paper print of the Montucky Cold Snacks design. Gregory had some experience with rejection, and shook off the setbacks. “I’d been shot down by so many dates it was just par for the course,” he jokes. “Luckily there were some distributors that helped us and mentored us through the process.”
The duo extends credit beyond distributors to the Bozeman community for helping make their idea a success. “Bozeman is great with small businesses,” Zeitner says. “People [are] trying to help each other, willing to think outside of the box, and think up ideas that help you both out.” While Montucky Cold Snacks are produced and canned in Wisconsin before being distributed in Montana, Zeitner’s and Gregory’s focus remain on Montana communities. “Both of us walked into it with this idea of public and community interest,” Gregory says. “I’ve always known that if I started a business or ever had any money, I would use it to help protect open spaces and public access. And Zeitner has always worked with kids’ groups, and I imagine he always will.”
In the past year, Montucky has partnered with Bozeman nonprofits including Gallatin Valley Land Trust, Eagle Mount, and Big Sky Youth Empowerment, donating over $8,000 in beer and Montucky goods. After Zeitner learned about Montana’s one-day liquor license for nonprofits, Montucky began donating beer to be sold at events and fundraisers. “We can give them the beer, and they can sell it and keep all the money, which can end up being quite a lot,” Gregory explains.
When asked for his “chairlift pitch,” Zeitner says, “Well, it used to be we’d just give them a Cold Snack. Then we realized there was liability with that. They might ski into a tree or something.” Now he explains how Montucky Cold Snacks is a local business that supports other local businesses and charities whenever they can. “And we give beer tokens,” he adds. That sounds like something Bozeman can drink to.
What do baking and Montana’s mountains and rivers have in common? In the case of Elle’s Belles Bakery, quite a lot. In fact, Montana’s natural splendor—and the many ways that Montanans enjoy it—is the inspiration for many of the Belles’ sugary creations. Since 2003, they’ve been honing their craft, developing as both bakers and artists. “It’s really been an organic growth,” Elle reflects, much of which has taken place in the last five years.
While the team designs more traditional cakes and desserts as well, Elle relishes the opportunity to put together entire wedding displays inspired by the surrounding landscape, working with customers to perfectly portray the desired theme. “The cakes represent the people that order them,” Elle explains, and in Bozeman, that means a lot of interesting outdoor-themed desserts. Whether crafting a whitewater raft for a resident river-rat or a native trout for one of the valley’s many avid fly fishermen, the Belles can make a cake glow with the energy of their patrons. “We want the cakes to reflect the fun to be had here,” Elle says.
Luckily, you don’t have to get hitched to taste Elle’s treats. Head to Zocalo, Joe’s Parkway, or Elle’s commercial bakery in Belgrade for a whole host of delicacies, including cookies, cheesecakes, and other desserts. The team’s creative expression certainly doesn’t diminish with the size of their desserts—you won’t find a more beautiful rainbow-trout cookie in the 406. The bakers explore their craft the way that a fisherman explores the Madison, and they have just as much fun in the process. “We kind of geek out on it,” Elle admits. So whether you’re looking for a quick treat or an edible incarnation of your passion for the outdoors, Elle is your Belle. See their latest creations or place an order at ellesbelles.com.
A Bozeman Boost
When Hamilton, Montana–born Kalen Caughey was 18, he began looking for an energy product to fuel his competitive skiing. “I wanted something that I could fit in my pocket that would give me a nice consistent boost,” Kalen says. “All I saw were unhealthy products like trucker pills that sketched me out.”
He started experimenting with natural, energy-boosting ingredients, creating his own homemade lozenges. His father, a biochemist, was a key mentor in the process of developing Voke Tabs. “My dad helped me by pulling scientific research papers on this huge list of ingredients and going through them with me to understand their benefits.”
Fast forward to 2015: mountaineers, skiers, kayakers, road-trippers, and weekend warriors are all pulling out an energy product with only two calories, no sugar, and no artificial ingredients. Nearly ten years after Kalen first developed the Voke recipe, his idea has transitioned from a kitchen-made lozenge to a chewable energy tab born in Bozeman and distributed across the country. Except for the addition of acerola cherry for vitamin C and the elimination of sugar, the recipe’s main ingredients—green-tea caffeine and guarana berry—are unchanged.
His business remains Bozeman-based, but the product is field-tested by a wide range of professional athletes, including Voke’s lead athlete, mountaineer and Bozemanite Conrad Anker. “One of my favorite times for a Voke Tab is when I’m on an expedition and I’m living in a tent,” Anker says in a recent video. “I wake up, take a Voke Tab, and by the time I’m out of my sleeping bag, I’m caffeinated and ready to go.”
Although Voke is growing steadily and Kalen is seeing demand for the product outside of the Bozeman, he credits much of the company’s success to his community. “Bozeman has a lot of passionate entrepreneurs who were very helpful from the early stages in giving me an education outside of school. There have also been hundreds of friends who have taken the product, given feedback, and been integral to its development.”
So next time you’re rummaging through your gear bag, down jacket, or center console for something to kickstart your day, avoid yesterday’s thermos of cold coffee and pop a Bozeman-born Voke Tab instead.