It wasn’t too long ago that Mark Hlebichuk might’ve considered Missoula the place to be.
For five years, Hlebichuk owned and operated the Montana Distillery at 631 Woody Street in downtown Missoula, but over time, financial roadblocks urged him to move on.
First, the property value increased, causing the property tax to do the same. Then, the pandemic hit, creating uncertainty for the already struggling establishment.
“It got to the point with the shutdowns that it was just too expensive to be in Missoula to do what we needed to do,” said Hlebichuk.
A future in Missoula looked grim, and sometimes you just have to shake things up, so he and his wife Sharie packed their things, headed south, and reopened the distillery smack dab in the center of Stevensville.
“We found this place on a whim somewhere in early May, and we signed the lease and got here and opened up for production in August, and then opened up for a tasting room on Christmas Eve.”
Stevensville offered Hlebichuk the chance to scale down his operation and reconnect with Ravalli County customers.
“A lot of the people who have been coming in, that were more regular in Missoula, are actually from the Bitterroot,” said Hlebichuk.
To pack up and move in the midst of a pandemic takes guts. Hlebichuk told MTN News that it's the customers who’ve reassured him that he made a good choice.
“You don't always know, but when all of a sudden people start making a trip out of their way to come see you... some people as far as Phillipsburg the other day….it’s like wow, thank you….it’s just awesome.”
The Montana Distillery’s winter hours are 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and can be found at 304 Main Street in Stevensville.