BIGFORK– The Massies swept the West searching for home. With two young sons and a daughter, Michael and Gabriele yearned for community roots. They still vividly remember the dim winter day they arrived in the Flathead Valley — Feb. 15, 1998 — but not only because it was their son’s sixth birthday.
“It literally felt like coming home,” Gabriele said recently, reflecting on her family’s introduction to Bigfork. “It was a bizarre feeling. I never had that before.”
The Massies are no longer searching. They’re right where they want to be, and that includes inside their new family-owned and operated business. In April the Massies bought Grateful Bread, a longtime, well-known homestyle bakery located inside the Old Town Center, formerly the Lake Hills Shopping Center, on Montana Highway 35. Purchasing their first restaurant was another leap of faith, similar to how they ended up in Bigfork in the first place. But both were born with the same intention.
The Massies are making sure Grateful Bread stays true to the identity and strong reputation that’s evolved over the last 16 years. The aroma of bread still pours out the front door. The coffee steams freshness. The breakfast and lunch menus feature familiar and new tasty creations: sandwiches and soups and even spaghetti pie (exactly like it sounds).
Creativity has become a common recipe for the Massies. That’s been one of the best aspects they’ve discovered working in the restaurant business.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be sticking to a certain soup,” Michael said. “It’s too boring then. We just like to be creative.”
It’s been an adventure these first few months. After all, neither Michael nor Gabriele have ever operated a restaurant until now. Since settling down in Bigfork 14 years ago, the family has worked in a variety of businesses. Most recently Gabriele was an accountant. They also worried it might be too late in life to try such a new endeavor. But something about the restaurant was enticing. The Massies inquired about Grateful Bread when it was for sale, and finally decided it was now or never.
“It was scary,” Gabriele said, “but it’s just like cooking for a big family. We thought this was something we could actually make a living at. We love to cook for people. We’ve been doing it for years. So it was like, why not?”
These days, gratefully, the family is together again in a new home. After leaving the nest, 20-year-old Jonathan and 18-year-old Katelyn are back living and working alongside their parents. That’s become another pleasant surprise since buying the restaurant.
“When customers are coming in the door it’s like one big family here,” Gabriele said. “And they become like family.”
And that’s what they were searching for in the first place.
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