My husband probably thought I had found someone else. Why would I leave Interstate 90 and continue to detour to a less populated town than my daughter’s high school class?
I’ve lived in nearby Bozeman for 28 years, and Fishtail, Montana, a small town with a population of about 250, is exciting. But it wasn’t another lover, nor was it a scenic grandeur or a sparkling nightlife. The attraction, believe it or not, was the Fishtail General Store.
If you drive the fishtail, you can’t miss the store. It’s one of two or three businesses in town (depending on whether you count post offices) and it’s amazingly quaint.
Founded in 1900, the business is Montana’s oldest continuously open general store. Owned and managed by Katy Martin for the past 22 years, this store has become a staple of this rural community. “Katey is the power of energy and generosity,” said long-time customer Nan Sollo. “This shop is a loving job.”
At the age of 72, Katie never stops, except to say hello to her customers. Her manager, Melissa Hasted, compares her to a hummingbird. She is always out.
And, although not in the worst case, I still struggled to catch up with her, lifting the Gatorade tabs and chasing the store, internally entertaining the creative benefits of a blurry portrait. Perhaps I tried to convince myself, which would best convey the state of her constant movement.
The store attracts people from all disciplines, from ranchers and miners to CEOs and doctors. “We get from our community not only locals, but also out-of-state and international visitors,” Katie said.
And there are few things you can’t find here. There are some things you can expect, such as milk, soda, beer, chips, toothbrushes and tampons. Others such as nuts, bolts, nails and screws are wise and provide a measure of security. “We try to get what people might need, just as people don’t have to go to town to repair something,” Katie said.
But you can also find freshly made pies, garden signs, steaks and sausages, baby clothes, dog treats, toys, rock painting kits, puzzles, handmade soaps, games and spam. When Fresh fruit, local art, homemade peanut butter, micro beer, camping, fishing, hunting equipment, PVC for sprinklers, petrol, reflective shirts, mining boots.
Yes, these are mining boots. Operated by the multinational mining company Sibanye-Stillwater, Stillwater Mine is 22 miles from the grocery store, straight down Nye Road. (The company also operates a nearby East Boulder mine.) A Good Neighbor Agreement Signed between the mining company and the Union of Environmental and Citizens’ Groups helps protect water quality and prevent industrial pollution. It also created goodwill between the mining company and the surrounding community.
“A good neighbor’s agreement is mutually beneficial,” said long-time customer Doug Ezel. “It maintains the beauty and lifestyle of the fishtail and its surroundings, while allowing the mine to carry out its business.”
The relationship between the general store and the mine developed 15 years ago when we started serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at the request of mine employees.
Every morning around 3:30 am, a clerk arrives and prepares for the first miner to wipe out like a flock of birds at sunrise — from 5:30 am to 6:15 am
Miners collect hot coffee, pre-packaged burritos, and snacks, and then disappear from Nyroad (the dots melt into the horizon) as they spend the day in the underworld. Night shift miners usually drop in at the store around 7:15 am at the end of the day.
When I greeted him and asked him what he was doing, one night the miner Austin Jensen simply said, “I’m blinded.” (His eyes were still acclimatizing to the light of the earth.)
After that, the schedule is reversed. The evening shift miners start the day and the morning start miners end the day. During that time, burgers, sandwiches, Mexican food, pizza and homemade cookies are served.
Ranchers are also welcome here.
“At any time, the rancher can brand the cattle, move the cattle, and transport the cattle,” explains the store manager Melissa. “There are many ranchers around here who come to buy groceries, light meals, water and beer to feed their crew.”
You don’t have to hang out in the store for a long time to understand that everyone is included.
While adding hot sauce to the breakfast burrito, I met Chase Anderson and Brett Heggy, two day labor cowboys, or “pasture rescuers” at the store. As they explained, their job is to identify diseases such as rotting and pink eyes on the hooves of individual cows in the herd.
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It was interesting to hear the Cowboys feature the popular TV series “Yellowstone”. “Taylor Sheridan,” the show’s screenwriter and director, “has been a good portrayal of the small parts of the real west,” Brett said. “This show sheds light on the fact that working cowboys are here every day and do the work they need to keep farming alive.”
As I walked around the store, I became friends with Kirk Martin, the stepchild of Katie, the co-owner of Fishtail Grind, which was founded with Luke Hall in the general store in 2017. Kirk and Luke got married in April at the courthouse. Columbus, Mon.
I also met various regulars. Sherry Winn, speaker, writer, leadership coach, and two Olympic athletes in team handball. John Dinsdale, owner of Beartooth Concrete, shared with me that he recently lost his wife. Jan Laforge Flanagan, a crow woman who told me he was recently married.
Retired city park manager Bill Karin was visiting from Canada. On the phone after I filmed him, he laughed and said he was getting a lot of ribs for his portrait session. “We enjoy visiting the store,” he said, adding that Katie has some unique items in stock. Especially eye-catching was the insulation of the beer can. He said it wraps your drink and looks like a small sleeping bag. His wife enjoyed a large selection of cards.
The products in the store are noteworthy. But perhaps my biggest point is that the customer reflects the fun spirit of the place.
“People feel comfortable coming here,” Katie told me. “They line up and talk. They don’t have to be big. They share their story and what’s happening in their lives. It makes us more compassionate. increase.”
“And the fact that we have great food doesn’t hurt,” she added.