WHITEFISH – Sandwiches are a personal food.
Most folks have a way they like to prepare their favorite type of sandwich, and it’s unsurprising that there’s a passionate, ongoing debate about what constitutes a sandwich (Is a hot dog a sandwich? What about a burrito? And so on).
But for Ellie and Orion Heyman, new owners of the Wich Haus, sandwiches represent opportunity and potential, the ability to start living their culinary dreams and run a business of their own under Montana’s big open sky.
The young married couple took over ownership this spring from the original owners Jamie Minster and Jason Selby, who opened the sandwich shop last September. It was a purchase that happened by chance, the couple said, though they had had their eyes on Montana as a place to settle down for a while.
“We knew we wanted to end up in Montana,” Orion said.
“[The original owners] started a great business with a good, local following,” Ellie said.
The Heymans’ journey to Whitefish started when the couple met in 2011 at the Culinary Arts Institute in Napa Valley, California. They graduated in 2012 and stayed in Napa, working in a restaurant together, with Orion at the entrée station and Ellie next to him at the antipasti station.
Seeking more culinary experience, the couple moved to New York City and spent three years in the tough grind of the city’s restaurant scene. They learned a lot, but it was exhausting and not a sustainable lifestyle. A months-long trip to Mexico refueled their spirits, and the couple moved to Missoula to be closer to Orion’s family.
In Missoula in 2017, they opened Firefly Private Dining, a catering business, and it was then that they decided to get married. They visited Whitefish a few times for work, and fell in love with the scenery and the community.
They moved to Chicago to get more restaurant experience, but it was too late – Montana had already seeped into their minds.
“We really missed Montana,” Orion said of their time in Chicago. “There was nothing available for sale here, so we had our ears and eyes open while we were away.”
The Wich Haus business had only been up for sale for a couple weeks when the Heymans snapped it up, and got right down to business remaking the menu in their style. The mission at the Wich Haus stayed the same: to make a few items really well with great local ingredients.
Since taking over, the Heymans have added a frozen custard machine just in time for summer, and have a stocked case of prepped goods for sale, with chickpea falafel, beet salad, potato salad, meatballs, grain salads, and much more, all popping with fresh flavor from local vegetables and meats.
“We’re in a pretty residential neighborhood,” Ellie said. “We thought it would be cool for the neighbors to be able to walk over and grab a chicken salad or meatballs to go.”
They’ve changed up some of the décor inside, and outside, they’ve expanded the yard and patio areas to include yard games and plenty of space to spread out with a good meal.
With their menu, the couple hopes to create a sense of place for eaters. It contains Hutterite chicken, Farm to Market pork, Montana flour in the homemade bread, and local produce. But new additions, like frozen custard, give it their own flair.
“We love cooking,” Orion said, as an alarm sounded and he headed to the kitchen to take bread out of the oven. “It’s our creative outlet.”
For more information on the Wich Haus, visit www.thewichhaus.com or call 406-730-2018.