There are no cranky people at Renee’s Rollin-N-Dough, owner Renee Tost points out, and there’s a reason for that.
Her homemade pies can put anyone in a good mood, but it’s more than that, the lifelong baker insists. The Fortine bake shop has an alluring essence about it, as if Tost herself was crooning a siren song.
“The positive energy here is so incredible,” she says, positioning freshly baked pies on display shelves.
Though pies get top billing at the tiny eatery, Tost’s artisan breads and take-and-bake pizzas are gaining traction, too, among her faithful followers. She’s just added take-and-bake calzones using her handmade pie dough.
“I’m not one to brag too much, but with these calzones, I’m onto something,” she said, suggesting that customers pre-order them.
Tost serves up a daily special: one soup and one sandwich, with varieties rotating regularly. On a chilly fall day last week she was dishing up minestrone and a Black Forest ham sandwich she promised had a kick to it.
“My customers say the sandwiches wake your mouth up,” she shared.
Through the years Tost had observed how people never ate their pie crusts at other restaurants she dined at. “So I made up my mind I was going to make an edible pie crust,” she recalled. She worked through a mountain of dough before she settled on a crust that was just right.
How Tost came to own a pie shop in a century-old one-room schoolhouse on Fortine’s main drag is a tale of twists and turns in Tost’s life that brought her back to Fortine more than once.
She got to know the area for the first time in the eighth grade when her dad was part of the crew that built the 7-mile-long Flathead Tunnel on the rail line in that area.
She moved to British Columbia with her family when she was 15, and started working in restaurants.
“I’ve been in the food industry ever since,” she said.
Tost had a café in Endako, B.C., for a while, and also operated a café in Washington state for a time. She owned the Bear’s Paw Café in Rexford for four years, too.
For a while she baked and sold pies from a shared space at a historic hotel in Eureka, and around 2006 she set up a pie shop in Fortine across the street from her current location at 245 Meadow Creek Road. Tost peddled pies for a few years in Fortine before she and her husband Frank moved to Eastern Montana to work on a ranch.
While on the other side of the Continental Divide, Tost decided to further education and earned an associate degree in addiction counseling in 2012 from Stone Child College on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation. The plan was to work as a counselor, but that plan didn’t panned out because the pie business came calling once again.
“This is therapy,” Tost said with a smile. “It’s pie and therapy.”
There’s an ongoing joke in Fortine that the pie shop is the one place where guys can stand up to their wives and insist on their favorite slice of pie, she said. Tost encourages the special aura of the shop with a big banner that says “What Happens in the Pie Shop Stays in the Pie Shop.”
The old schoolhouse that houses Renee’s Rollin-N-Dough used to be located in Fortine between the school and a church. It was used as a community center but had deteriorated through the years.
“They were going to tear it down or burn it down,” Tost said.
That’s when Scott and Michelle Smith, who own The Vintage Warehouse in Fortine, had the schoolhouse moved next door to their business (which operates in the old Fortine Mercantile building) and spent years renovating the one-room building, repairing the hardwood flooring and restoring the original wainscoting on the walls. Tost started baking pies again in June 2015.
“They rescued it and it waited for me to walk in the door,” she said. “When I stepped through these doors, all I saw was this was the place where I was going to have my pie shop.”
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.