With their renovation of a downtown Polson landmark, Debra and Jeff Blodgett have added another chapter to the Blodgett family’s Montana story.
Blodgett Creamery Coffee Saloon occupies what was once a dilapidated building at the corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue. Since opening two years ago, the restaurant has become a popular downtown gathering spot. With its large tables and light-filled dining area, Blodgett Creamery offers a welcoming work space or a place to linger over breakfast, lunch or coffee.
“We’ve felt an amazing support from community with the businesses that surround us,” Debra Blodgett said. “Many are in here every day, sometimes multiple times. We have folks who come in and work on laptops and use us as that kind of resource, women’s groups who play cards every Wednesday, a knitting group, a women’s investment group that uses the back room meeting space. We have contractors and Realtors with blueprints laid out. We feel like we’ve really filled a need for a meeting space.”
The Blodgett name may be familiar to Montanans through Blodgett Canyon, a scenic area in the Bitterroot Valley known for its waterfall and vertical granite walls. It was named after one of Jeff Blodgett’s ancestors, Lyman Benjamin Blodgett, after he settled in the area in the late 1800s. Joseph Smith Blodgett had been the first of the family in Montana, immigrating from Utah in 1858 and marrying into Chief Charlo’s Salish tribe.
Blodgett Creamery is a true family business. The Blodgetts’ daughter, Morgan Kates, manages the service area while son Cody Blodgett takes care of the kitchen, inventory and other back-of-the-house duties.
Blodgett Creamery occupies the site of the once-thriving Model Bar and Restaurant. The corner building was constructed in 1925 and had fallen into disrepair.
“We knew it needed a lot of work,” Debra Blodgett said of the building. “Everything from a new floor, electrical, plumbing, to a new roof, new heating and air system.
“They were heating with the old stove that’s now in the dining room and the windows were old, single-pane. One of the main complaints was that it was freezing all the time.”
Even when faced with a huge reconstruction project, “we decided this was our building,” she said. “We wanted to resurrect it.”
Other refurbishing projects included uncovering brick walls that had been buried under plaster, refinishing the decorative tin ceilings and opening up the archway that had been sealed to split the interior into two rooms.
Because of the historic nature of the project and its Main Street location, the Blodgetts applied for a Montana Department of Commerce community-development program that offers low-interest loans to revitalization projects.
Jeff and Debra had backgrounds that helped them manage the daunting loan process and secure the financing, awarded to very few applicants each year. Debra had worked for state government in Washington in human resources and as a project manager for various state agencies, and with a private software company. Jeff, who grew up in Deer Lodge, had a history working in corrections, as well as graphic and web design. The couple had tried getting a home-building business going in Whitefish for a few years in the mid-2000s, but when the recession hit, they moved back to Washington.
They had also taken a trial run at owning a restaurant franchise in Washington, but decided the franchise model was too restrictive and costly.
“We really felt it was important to do what we envisioned and what we liked,” Blodgett said.
That vision included serving food that is consistent and high-quality, Blodgett said. In creating their menu, she found inspiration in recipes passed down from her mother, who she called a “Midwestern farm girl.”
“I grew up with a home cook, and I’ve taken all her soup recipes,” Blodgett said. “We make everything from our egg salad to our almond chicken salad. We tried every deli meat you can imagine until we found the quality we wanted. We’re meticulous about our process.”
They serve Montana-made products, such as ice cream from Big Dipper in Missoula in the summer, breads from Billings’ Grains of Montana and coffee roasted by Hunter Bay in Lolo.
Blodgett Creamery opened a store in Missoula, but the location didn’t work for them, Blodgett said. They might expand to other Montana cities, but they’re content to focus on Polson for now.
“We want to make sure we’re part of the revitalization that’s happening here.”
Business reporter Heidi Gaiser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 758-4441