Missoula’s Big Dipper Ice Cream shop is expanding to downtown Billings, bringing homemade, premium ice cream to a growing area.
“We honestly feel if we didn’t do it, someone else would,” co-owner Bryan Hickey of Missoula said Thursday.
The shop could open by February on the first floor of the Stapleton Building at the corner of First Avenue North and Broadway, according to Jeremiah Young, who is doing the design work and owns the Marcasa shop in the same building.
Hickey and his partner, Big Dipper co-founder Charlie Beaton, had been eying the Billings area for the past five years. Hickey’s wife, Sarah, is a Billings native, and the couple travel to the area frequently to visit her parents, Jim and Sheila Downs.
“Billings is a booming town right now. There is so much going on. And I saw there was a total lack of a homemade ice cream right now,” Hickey, 37, said.
Big Dipper isn’t the only new development downtown. Just down the street, the former Z Pizza in the Babcock Building at 116 Broadway may be replaced by a high-end cocktail bar. Attorney Bruce Harper still must obtain city approval to open the businesses, which would serve martinis, Manhattans and other mixed drinks, along with a small food menu.
Both new shops are likely to boost foot traffic and bring more people downtown. Young, the Marcasa owner, said he is particularly excited about Big Dipper in the same building.
“It’s such a positive thing. Something like ice cream attracts everyone,” he said.
Big Dipper serves 20 to 25 flavors of premium, high butterfat ice cream made on the premises. The Missoula shop first opened downtown in 1995 and later expanded to Helena. It was recently featured on “Good Morning, America,” as one of America’s best ice cream shops.
Hickey said Lia Munson, who managed Big Dipper’s ice cream truck in Missoula, is moving to Billings to manage the new shop. All other employees will come from the Billings area.
Hickey said he’s still working out the details of the design of the store, but expects it will have a more modern look to fit with the neighborhood. Construction is set to start Oct. 1.
“I love downtowns. That’s kind of our thing. We love to support downtowns,” Hickey said.