The owners of the Jug Tree, a long-time liquor store here, have decided to move their operations out of downtown Bigfork and to Streeter’s Corner, the busy intersection of Highways 83 and 35 north of town.
It’s a big change, owner Richard Kramer noted, but he and his son, general manager Nevada Kramer, said they’re excited about the possibilities opening up to the business now that they’ve got more space to work with.
“We’re sad to be leaving downtown, that’s a great community,” Richard Kramer said. “But downtown, we found parking is pretty difficult, even for locals.”
What was once the Jug Tree — which the Kramers bought last year and has been managed by Nevada ever since — will now be the Bigfork Liquor Barn. It’s a can’t-miss building, bright red with white trim like a traditional barn, on about 2 acres of land.
Because state liquor laws prohibit them from selling alcohol in more than one place at one time, the Kramers expected a big move over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and to be open by this week.
Work on the new building started as soon as the snow allowed, Richard said, with the land sale going through in February. It’s been a sprint to get it ready for the summer traffic, which is one of the big reasons they decided to move. He said the downtown Bigfork area sees an annual average of 550 cars a day, whereas the new location gets about 17,000 as people drive to the Swan, Bigfork, and north to Glacier National Park and the valley’s cities.
The new building is 4,200 square feet, and will feature a wide selection of wine and liquor as a privately owned state liquor store. The Kramers have a special focus on the wine, being one of the few liquor stores in the state that works with all of the state’s wine distributors. They also have a full-time sommelier, Kevin Marshall, on staff.
They’ve got more than 900 selections of wine, Nevada said, and they range from $5 bottles you could find at the grocery store to the “tippy-top” of the wine world with $300-and-more bottles and the ability to place special orders for customers.
All together this means a wide range of wines that people might not be able to find elsewhere, Nevada said.
“People from Italy come here and have seen a unique Italian wine they couldn’t find anywhere else in Montana,” he said.
Along with wine, the new store will have space for the existing 1,200 types of liquor they offer, along with the possibility for more.
“I’m excited about how much new space we have so we can expand our current product line,” Nevada said.
A gift shop inside will sell made-in-Montana products, and the store will carry liquor from at least 18 Montana distilleries. Though the new set up will be more efficient for employees, the Kramers have added two positions to their staff since May.
The Bigfork Liquor Barn will also sell tobacco products, from general cigarettes to an array of cigars. The Jug Tree also sold cigars, Nevada said, but the new building will let them install an even larger humidor to stock more types of cigars.
Given the property’s size, the Kramers said they would like to look at the possibilities of hosting community events there, to continue the relationships they’ve built with Bigfork, its residents, and its businesses throughout the last year.
“We’re really excited about it,” Richard said.