Committed to Caffeinating Kalispell

Montana Coffee Traders upgrades downtown Kalispell location with renovation, new menu and services

By Molly Priddy

Change can be difficult, but it is often necessary. In business, change means evolving with the economy or with overarching trends, and how a company chooses to adjust determines its future.

For Montana Coffee Traders, being one of the valley’s beloved java hotspots since 1981 doesn’t mean the company intends to rest on its laurels. In Kalispell, the Montana Coffee Traders location on Center Street across from the Kalispell Center Mall has a new look to go with a familiar attitude.

The coffee shop and restaurant closed down for a week to undergo interior renovations, and according to MCT café coordinator Leslie Hunt, the changes will make the coffee and food experience more streamlined for customers while maintaining and enhancing the personal service customers have come to expect from MCT employees.

Renovations include moving cash registers and adding more outdoor space, as well as bringing in new furniture and adjusting the indoor space to allow for less time spent waiting in line.

It’s also a way for the company to show downtown Kalispell it has no intention of giving up the building it has inhabited since 1989.

“We wanted to reaffirm our commitment to the community of Kalispell,” Hunt said.

Along with the new look, the café will have a new menu for customers to peruse, with a new lunch delivery service that will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. The delivery zone will be from the Kalispell Regional Healthcare campus to downtown, Austin Baumgarten, manager of the Kalispell MCT location, said.

“We’re expanding the breakfast and the lunch menus,” Baumgarten said. “We try to buy locally as much as we can.”

Local foods on the menus include vegetables and other goodies from the Western Montana Growers Cooperative, milk and dairy products from Kalispell Kreamery, honey from Glacier County Honey Co., and pork from Farm to Market.

Coffee Traders first opened with its roaster location on U.S. Highway 93 just south of Whitefish in 1981. Other locations include the café in Columbia Falls and the coffeehouse in Whitefish.

The Kalispell location opened up in 1989 in what was originally a retail outlet space, and was just serving coffee and some soups. The Knead Café, now a Kalispell staple, opened there in the mid-90s, Hunt said, and once the Knead left the space to go on its own, the Coffee Traders staff took over the kitchen.

Since then, the Kalispell location has become known for its breakfast selections and lunch options, including a popular rotating selection of curries and food with Asian flair.

In her time working with Coffee Traders, Hunt said the company has seen businesses come and go in Kalispell as the economy fluctuates. It’s flattering to be considered a mainstay in the community, she said, but it’s also important to continue to evolve with the times.

There was a point in time when Coffee Traders could have moved from its current location to the booming business area in North Kalispell, where space is limited and in demand.

“We have realized that we are a downtown business,” Hunt said.

This realization was underscored when the new Starbucks opened its doors last year, just down Center Street from the Coffee Traders location. If anything, the competition has boosted the business at MCT, Baumgarten and Hunt said.

In the dust and noise of the renovations last week, Baumgarten said the café’s regulars have made appearances, popping their heads in to see how it’s all going, and, more importantly, when it would be done so they could get back to their routines.

“Our customers have been very supportive,” he said.