“It’s been quite an adventure.”
With those words, Julie Smith summed up a 21-year run at Tiebuckers Pub and Eatery in Somers.
Smith, 54, and her husband, Barry, 61, purchased the historic building in 1991 and opened a year later.
They raised their daughters, Emma and McCall, in the popular establishment, and the family lived there for a nine years as well. “Everyone watched my children grow up,” Julie said. “There’s a lot of memories here.”
Now it’s time to move on.
“Sometimes you need a new adventure,” Julie said, noting the couple has purchased the old Sizzler in Kalispell. “Hopefully it’s going to be our last one.” The Smiths have gutted the building — which was vacant for four years — and plan on turning it into a new restaurant, the Tree Frog Tavern.
Over the Fourth of July, Julie said she got emotional with some friends while thinking about the good times at Tiebuckers. Her daughters have left the nest with Emma working as a beautician in Oakdale, Calif. and McCall attending college at Eastern Oregon University.
“We’ve had very loyal customers, and that’s the hardest part,” Julie said. “Sometimes you’ve got to take some chances. I think the timing’s right for us.”
She explained that they have a good opportunity to make more money in Kalispell. And the drive from their Kila home won’t be as long either.
After the city of Kalispell expanded southward a number of years ago to take in Fun Beverage, Tiebuckers was placed within seven miles of the city. The Smiths had a county liquor license at the time of the city’s expansion, but afterward they were required by state law to also pay the city of Kalispell for the liquor license, Julie said. “The city and county have been double dipping us for five years,” she said. After they started paying the city, they were also forced to wait five years before relocating their license. That time is up.
“We’re going from a town of 1,000 to a town of 35,000,” Julie said.
Tiebuckers — which seats 110 — is for sale for $249,000. That doesn’t include a liquor license, which runs around $500,000, Julie said. The liquor license will go with the Smiths to Tree Frog Tavern. She’s hopeful that someone will buy the building — which was built in 1928 and includes 2,000 square feet of living quarters upstairs — and turn it into a bed and breakfast, for example. She notes that Del’s Bar, Vista Linda Restaurant and Scotty’s Bar all have mobile liquor licenses, which means the new owners wouldn’t be left “high and dry.”
“When we took over this building, it had been empty for 10 years,” Julie said. “We turned it into something profitable. We’re going to stay open here, probably through the summer.”
Tiebuckers is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. or so, Julie said, noting the closing time isn’t fixed.
She got the name for her new adventure, Tree Frog Tavern, from a restaurant in Modesto, Calif. The couple — who moved to Montana from central California in 1990 — plan to offer upscale lunch and dinner fare seven days a week. It won’t be typical bar food, she said.
The Smiths plan take their seven employees with them and hire 15 more, Julie said.
Barry said they got the Tiebuckers name — which refers to someone who loaded railroad ties onto railroad cars — from Doc Sonstelie, a professor at Flathead Valley Community College who used to live in Somers. Now they want to hand the name to someone else.
“At our age, we still have some good working years ahead of us,” Julie said.