New Owner, Same Relationship-Focused Philosophy at Brix

Raymond Dickinson managed specialty beer and wine store for the late Karen Sanderson before assuming ownership late last year

By Myers Reece
Raymond Dickinson, owner of Brix Bottleshop in Kalispell, on Feb. 4, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In recounting his biography, new Brix Bottleshop owner Raymond Dickinson cobbles together complex webs of relationships, tracing the arc of his professional and personal growth through the people he’s befriended and learned under.

“Over my lifetime, my career, all these things that have happened to me have been through relationships, through people who have put me under their wing,” Dickinson said.

Among the most important relationships was with the late Karen Sanderson, whom he met in 2006 while he was working for a beverage distributor and she was with Elk Cove Vineyards in Oregon. They struck up a friendship, drawn together by a mutual love of wines and fine fare, and Sanderson ended up replacing him at George’s Distributing.

Professionally, they traversed different but adjacent paths within the food and beverage industry of Northwest Montana, with Sanderson launching Brix Bottleshop in 2012 and Dickinson managing Latitude 48 and serving as Montana director of Foley Family Wines. But in 2018, as Dickinson was seeking new terrain in his career, Sanderson brought him on to manage Brix on Kalispell’s Main Street.

Beer at Brix Bottleshop in downtown Kalispell on August 5, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

“It really reignited a lot of the passion I felt years ago in the business and it really refueled me,” Dickinson said. “And it was really because of Karen and the opportunity she gave me.”

Sanderson increasingly handed Dickinson the reins, and her cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2019 formally put into motion the process of transferring ownership. After Sanderson passed away in October of that year, Dickinson moved forward with the logistics of purchasing the business, only to be complicated by the pandemic.

Finally, in late 2020, the ink was dry. Now Dickinson, as Brix’s owner, is making his own imprint on the business while channeling the lessons he’s learned from mentors and friends such as Tupelo Grille’s Pat Carloss, former KM Building owner Bill Goodman and, of course, Sanderson.

Dickinson, 50, has spent most of his adult life in the food and beverage industry, working various jobs in college before getting serious about wine in his mid-20s while at a restaurant in Eugene, Oregon. He went on to work at Worden’s Market and Deli in Missoula, authoring a weekly food and wine newsletter and gaining further experience in the wine world.

Dickinson took a job in wine sales with Fun Beverage in Kalispell in 2001 and later worked in a similar role with George’s Distributing before moving on to Latitude 48 and Foley Family Wines. Owning Brix Bottleshop is not only the fulfillment of a longtime dream to run a specialty wine and beer store, but also the culmination of that varied experience over decades in the industry.

Beer at Brix Bottleshop in downtown Kalispell on August 5, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Now Dickinson enjoys paying the lessons forward, putting relationships with staff and customers at the heart of his philosophy while empowering employees such as Jacob Eubank and Cameron Bond to put their own stamp on the operation. He said Eubank and Bond are similarly passionate about wine and beer as he is, and furthermore said “they’re just amazing young men.”

“There’s not a clear education path in this business,” Dickinson said. “You’ve got to have people who are willing to impart their own personal education.”

Dickinson, who also teaches wine education at Flathead Valley Community College, is crafting a vision that will balance the store’s evolution and growth with a commitment to the people-centered philosophies set into place by Sanderson. One change that customers will notice is the continued expansion of the specialty food inventory, further building out the store’s supply of hard-to-find culinary items such as high-quality salami, prosciutto, pate, pickles, cheeses, noodles, sauces and more.

The emphasis on people is evident in the neighborly atmosphere fostered at Brix, in which customers frequently become regulars and friends. It’s not uncommon for customers to call in an order for a case of wine, requesting only a price point and general types while trusting the Brix crew to put together an assortment that suits them.

“We like to build relationships with people and get to know people on a personal level,” Dickinson said. “Relationships are at the very foundation of what goes on in this business.”