Meet Bigfork’s Busiest Business Owners – Lisa Cloutier and Brian Anderson

Allow us to introduce Brian Anderson and Lisa Cloutier, the owners of Montana Bonfire and The Raven in Woods Bay, as well as Whistling Andy in Bigfork. This energetic couple shares three businesses, a love of entrepreneurship, their community, Asian cuisine, exotic locales, and the Flathead Lake area. Their businesses would be successful anywhere, so they sat down with us to answer the question, “Why Woods Bay and Bigfork, Montana?”

LM: Let’s start your journey as Flathead Lake entrepreneurs from the beginning – are you both from the Flathead area?

LC: Yes, Brian is from Marion, and my family and I are from Kalispell and Bigfork – I’ve been here 29 years now. My parents and grandparents had places on the lake, so we always summered here.

BA: I also worked in the area during the summers, which is where we met. We both have a soft spot for Bigfork.

LM: What made you both decide to become entrepreneurs?

LC: I come from a long line of entrepreneurs – I never really envisioned working for anyone else. I wanted to create my narrative, mantra, and plan, so I started that right out of college and continued with it.

BA: I graduated from college as a geo hydrologist, and after working for an engineering firm in Kalispell, and then later commuting to Alaska every two weeks, I decided it was time for me to help with Lisa’s growing businesses and start my own. I chose spirits (Whistling Andy’s) because that is what I had always geeked out on. I fell in love with rum when Lisa was managing restaurants in Anguilla. In the winter, Lisa would run two fine dining places in Anguilla, just south of St. Martin. I’d visit Lisa for a month and learn about rum. 

 

LM: Lisa, your time in Anguilla is obviously behind the Caribbean vibe of The Raven, which sits directly on Flathead Lake in Woods Bay…

LC: I wanted to bring that Caribbean/tiki feel to Montana, right on the water, making it feel like you are in the Caribbean on some days. The Raven has a casual vibe – you can sit on the water, and because there isn’t a tremendous amount of public access to Flathead Lake, The Raven provides locals with a way to enjoy the water. It’s an easy place to lose time in– you think you’ve been there an hour, and before you know it, it’s been four hours!  

LM: And the inspiration behind Montana Bonfire?

LC: One of the goals of owning the distillery is to support Montana agriculture, so we were looking for something that was more farm-to-table. The dark colors are reminiscent of our travels to Japan. Most everything, minus the citrus, is sourced from Montana. The trout comes from the lake, and the beef comes from the area.  

LM: Whistling Andy’s recently earned the distinction of being Montana’s oldest operating distillery in Montana! Congratulations! 

BA: Thank you! We’ve put in a tremendous amount of sweat equity and had a lot of help from friends and the community. We are super excited about our grand opening at our new location, scheduled for mid-November, at 8020 Montana Hwy 35 in Bigfork.

LM: It was interesting to learn that Whistling Andy’s spirits are sold internationally in locations like Australia and Taiwan. How does a little distillery in Montana manage that, and how do you keep up with the demand?

BA:  That really is Lisa – she’s the one who is amazing and spearheads those efforts. We lucked out because Montana has the best ingredients in the world regarding variety and quantity for distilled spirits. Our spirits are a Montana agricultural product – we get all of our grain from two local family farms. This is a real value-add when it comes to selling the product. There have been many grants and help through the Montana Department of Commerce and the Montana Department of Ag. 

Regarding demand, if I had another 200 barrels of whiskey, I could sell them in a second! 

LM: Tell us about your huckleberry vodka fundraiser…

BA: When the Sperry Chalet burned down in Glacier National Park, the Glacier Park Conservancy had difficulty finding donors. We reached out and said we hadn’t done a flavored vodka yet and wanted to do something not just with huckleberry flavoring – but with actual huckleberries. We worked up the recipe and donated 100% of the profits from the first year, and after that first year, we donated 5% of the gross sales. We’ve donated something around $55,000 so far. We got some great press associated with that, and in so doing, the Conservatory was able to secure other donors.  

LM: Businesses like yours that give back to the community are one of many things that make Montana so special – thank you! So tell us, how are you able to run three businesses?

LC: It’s been ingrained in us – our stuff is never done, so we are constantly working until it’s time to take a break and travel somewhere. It’s a similar mindset that we both have. 

LM: Outside of your family connection, why run three businesses in Woods Bay and Bigfork?

BA: Montana is such an amazing state because of the personalities that live and move here and the opportunity here. There’s this feeling that you can make it happen if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work. The barrier to entry really isn’t there. The community is so kind and helpful – we absolutely love the state and where we live, and the level of skill and talent of the local people is fantastic. We couldn’t imagine doing this anywhere else.

LM: We should end on that glowing sentiment, but we must know – you own three of the best places to eat and drink in the Flathead region. So when it’s time for you to go out for a drink, how do you decide where to go? 

LC: We have a strong love for the craft cocktail, but being in the restaurant industry means being in the kitchen four or more nights a week. These days, quietly sitting at home on our porch is my favorite place to have a drink at the moment.  

BA: I agree! We start the day with strategic planning over a cup of coffee, so it’s nice to end the day with a recap and a drink on the porch.

Images via respective social media accounts, with owners’ permission

FOR SALE: The Raven, Woods Bay Montana

MLS #22212211

CONTACT: Nikki Frizzell or Katherine Conrad, Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty (406-260-2163) or your real estate agent

FOR SALE: 8541 MONTANA HWY 35

MLS #22202112

CONTACT: Nikki Frizzell or Katherine Conrad, Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty (406-260-2163) or your real estate agent

 

Kat Hobza has lived in Montana since she was nine, and was raised in the mountains west of Victor, Montana. There she learned to hunt, fish, shoot competitively, chop and stack firewood, and drive on icy or muddy roads. Kat has over two decades of experience in professional writing and content marketing. When she’s not crafting copy for Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty, she’s either hanging with her hilarious adult kids or soaking up the sun somewhere – a riverbank, a golf course, or her deck.

 

 

 

Read Brian and Lisa’s story, as well as many more, in our recently refreshed LIVE Montana…