Mariah Carpenter had always wanted to go into business for herself. Her mother-in-law, Kris Carpenter, needed someone to fill a space in the strip mall she owns on Billings' West End.
And they both loved coffee. That’s how Black Dog Coffee, opening on June 30 at 1528 24th. St. W. was born.
It’s a good addition to the Sanctuary Spa strip mall, which has struggled to remain full over the years just north of the Grand Avenue intersection. Black Dog is moving into the former home of Joy of Living, which Kris Carpenter, the owner, moved next door.
The other business in the mall is Atlas Chiropractic. The addition of Black Dog, which has an outdoor, dog-friendly patio, creates a walkable area that should benefit all the businesses, the owners say.
“It is the mix. We’ve learned people drive out, and they shop and do other things,” Kris Carpenter said.
Mariah and her husband, Rob Carpenter, are the two principal owners of Black Dog. Kris Carpenter is a partner. The couple invested about $150,000 to start the business.
Black Dog is arriving in the middle of a sudden boom for coffee shops in Billings. Within the past three years, independents Mazevo, Coffee Tavern, Moav and Ebon Coffee Collective have all launched downtown. Billings-based franchise City Brew has added a new location on the far West End on Grand Avenue, and coffee giant Starbucks has built two new West End stores.
Mariah Carpenter said she’s less worried about the new competition because of her location. Black Dog will draw people from the neighborhood and those stopping at other businesses in the strip mall, she said.
The shop will feature Stumptown Coffee from Portland, Oregon, and the staff went to the Pacific Northwest recently for training on the roasting. A doughnut machine is also on site for fresh goodies, she said.
Carpenter, 30, said she spent the past several years as a manager at Sanctuary and Joy of Living, a gift shop. She said she’s learned a lot from her mother-in-law, and she’s excited to build synergy in the area.
“I love that all of our businesses are different. It’s fun to change it up,” Carpenter said.
The strip mall has seen a lot of change over the years in terms of the restaurants. Most recently, Kennedy’s, a wine and sandwich shop, lasted a little more than a year before closing last August. The owner, former Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy, had accepted a new job as head of fundraising for Montana State University-Billings.
Before that, Six Degrees Gourmet opened in 2012 but only lasted a few years.
That space is now the last remaining vacancy in the strip mall. Kris Carpenter said she doesn’t want another restaurant for the space, and she thinks Black Dog will help attract another good tenant.
The Carpenters had tossed around several names before deciding to honor an institution around the strip mall: Dante, Rob Carpenter’s 12-year-old black dog.
Black Dog will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. The shop has six employees.