After the pandemic shut down businesses this spring, Bonjour Bakery and Bistro’s previous owner was debating whether she should reopen once the state lifted the closure when she met new Flathead Valley residents, Chris Reynolds and Mario Valdez, who had dreams of opening a bakery of their own.
In October, Reynolds and Valdez reopened and revamped the bakery, keeping some of its original menu items like croissants, macaroons, soups and sandwiches while adding new items.
Reynolds manages the business while his husband, Valdez, runs the kitchen as the head pastry chef, bringing knowledge from the International Culinary Center where he learned the trade in New York City.
“This is something my husband dreamed of having for 20 years,” Reynolds said. “We weren’t necessarily planning on opening a business in the middle of a pandemic.”
After working for a French patisserie owned by Argentinians for four years in Bronxville, Valdez was ready to start his own bakery. Hailing from Argentina himself, he now incorporates his home country’s culture into Bonjour Bakery’s menu.
Reynolds and Valdez left Long Island this summer as surrounding areas continued to get hit hard by the pandemic. With most of Reynolds’ immediate family living in Bigfork, they were both ready to leave their busy and stressful lives in the city to start a new chapter in Montana and be closer to family.
“That was an easy transition for me,” Reynolds said. “Metropolitan areas get a little bit stressful and I was ready to let that go. I was very busy and I had a big job in New York. It was a stressful environment and all my family is here. When the pandemic started it was not the best place to be, and it felt like it was time for me to go.”
Now that Reynolds and Valdez have started a business in Kalispell, they say the community has been very supportive of their arrival. With an expanding customer base, they are also continuing to expand the menu.
Valdez has added more quiches, Argentinian cookies and sandwiches, including the Croquet Monsieur, a grilled Panini with ham, Havarti cheese and raspberry on butter-toasted sourdough bread.
They are also planning to experiment with pizza, lasagna, bagels, gelato and more soups, which they will add to the menu once Valdez has perfected the recipes.
This spring, Reynolds and Valdez plan to pave the front area of the building to add an outdoor patio for additional seating, too.
After arriving in the Flathead this summer and unexpectedly opening a bakery a few months later, Reynolds and Valdez are glad they can bring more diverse food options to the area.
“I love a lot about this area,” Reynolds said. “But there’s not a lot of food variety here and I love that we can contribute to the community and provide something that you can’t otherwise get.”
Bonjour Bakery and Bistro is located at 45 Heritage Way in Kalispell.
For more information, visit www.bonjourbakeryandbistro.com.