The community of business owners at Alpine Village — and “community” is the word used by many of them — is a pretty tight-knit bunch.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t welcome a new kid on their block. In this case that’s Greg Smith, who opened his 3 Brothers Bistro and Casino May 5 to help anchor the community of mostly mom-and-pop businesses in the rustic group of shops and services along 16th Street West between Grand and Lewis Avenue.
With the help of a small crew, Smith and his wife Kerri closed the restaurant for five weeks to clean, remodel and refurbish the facility and upgrade the menu to feature mostly made-from-scratch items.
While business has been “slower than we would have liked” during the initial month, Smith said the surrounding community — both the businesses and the adjacent neighborhood — give him plenty of optimism for growth down the line.
“It’s a neighborhood within a town that’s surrounded by a lot of businesses, and that’s why we wanted to be here,” said Smith during a few spare minutes this week in between the breakfast and lunch rush. “It’s the kind of place people want to take their friends to — a neighborhood bar and grill.”
Smith, who also owns a Hardin restaurant, said he’s been a little surprised by diners’ choices so far. The most popular offering has been an English-style fish and chips, which Smith said has already become a Friday staple.
"It's been our No. 1 asked-for item by far," he said.
Smith said he can’t tell if a number of his customers drop in while shopping at his neighbors’ establishments or are just out for a bite.
“I can’t see most of them,” he said with a smile. “After all, I’m in the kitchen.”
Patty Hanson, who with her husband Collin own Collin’s Bike Shop, said the new restaurant will probably lift some nearby businesses, “but we’re kind of our own entity” because the shop fronts 16th Street West and because the business is well-established.
Still, she said, “we benefit from each other. This is a community, and that’s a lost presence in a growing city. Some of these businesses have been here for a long time, but I’m glad somebody bought (the restaurant) and I’m glad he’s sticking to his guns” by offering a made-from-scratch menu and upgrading the menu.
Hanson said the bicycle shop’s reputation is built on the mechanical ability of her husband, although “he’d never tell you that.”
“We’ve been in the community for a long time. Being in business for yourself is not easy,” she said. “You have to be disciplined, and you have to be there for your customers.”
Alongside with the new restaurant, Nancy Wagner, who owns Reflections Hair and Nails, a cosmetology salon, said she hasn’t seen much uptick since having the restaurant reopen.
“We don’t get a lot of walk-in trade,” she said, adding that many of the people she sees are long-term clients. “I haven’t been in there yet because I don’t go to casinos, but it’s good for the community, and I wish them well.”
Another of the bistro's neighbors, Amy Stalmaster, the owner of Montana Art Glass, calls the Alpine Village business owners “a nice niche community. Everybody gets along and supports each other.”
She said she counts on her neighbors to receive deliveries when she’s away, a service she readily provides them when they’re gone.
“I definitely see us as a community. Everyone’s really positive in this place,” she said. “We’re all nice to each other, and you don’t see that everywhere.”
“We have never been more excited about a business location as we are with Alpine Village,” Smith said of the new bistro. “It’s been a ski shop and a steak house, and we hope to be here for a long time.”