Saturday, December 15, 2012

Healthy Addition

Organic grocery store moving into former Borders building
Organic produce on display at the new Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage store in Missoula. | Contributed photo
The former Borders building in north Kalispell is undergoing a nearly half-million dollar remodel in preparation for a new 20,000-square-foot organic grocery store.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, a booming nationwide retailer of organic groceries and environmental-friendly products, has announced plans to open a new location in Mountain View Plaza in April.

The site, situated between Bed Bath and Beyond and TJ Maxx, has sat vacant since September 2011 after Borders declared bankruptcy and shuttered the Kalispell bookstore and almost 400 others nationwide. Vega Architecture, based in Denver, filed a building permit last month with the city’s planning department listing $452,000 in projected site improvements.

In sharp contrast to Borders’ decline, Natural Grocers arrives on a wave of successful growth. The Colorado-based company will encompass 66 stores in 13 states by summer, including in-state locations in Missoula, Helena and Billings. Since the company went public in July, net sales have increased 28 percent in the fourth quarter, pushing the 2012 fiscal year gains over $336 million. Plans for 2013 include adding 12 more stores, including Kalispell’s, to the organic industry giant’s portfolio.

John Reynolds, assistant vice president and asset management for Retail Properties of America, Inc., which oversees Mountain View Plaza and other shopping centers nationwide, praised the arrival of Natural Grocers in a statement last month.
“Natural Grocers is an outstanding operator, and we are pleased to add a grocery component to Mountain View’s excellent lineup of diverse retailers,” Reynolds said.

So what can residents expect from this new addition?

Employment-wise, Natural Grocers typically hires roughly 20 employees, and staffing can reach 50, according to Director of Marketing Nancy Flynn. On a company-wide basis, 78 percent of store managers were promoted from within, according to Kemper Isley, Natural Grocers’ co-president.

Shoppers can expect a different experience than usual at the grocery store.

In 2009, on Earth Day, the company became the first major retailer to go completely “bag free,” meaning employees would no longer supply plastic or paper shopping bags to customers. The company made the decision in response to concerns about environmental threats related to bags. Customers are instead provided reusable bags as a substitute.

The transition saves more than six million bags a year “that our customers won’t be contributing to the environment,” Isley said in a statement in 2009.

The bold bag-free decision reflected Natural Grocers’ long-standing business model, which incorporates environmental and health awareness in several aspects.

Natural Grocers’ stores provide only organic and all-natural groceries. At the same time the stores stay away from artificial sweeteners, dairy products with artificial growth hormones and other foods and ingredients that don’t meet the company’s standards. The stores also serve to specific dietary and health needs.
The outside of a Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage store. | Contributed photo

Almost every site is also equipped with a demo kitchen and conference room, where health and cooking classes are held on a regular basis. The stores host free health and wellness seminars and provide programs and “coaches” for those trying to clean up their diet and overall health.

A corner of the stores also provides furniture for a comfortable place to hang out and enjoy refreshments.

Margaret and Phillip Isely went from selling bread door-to-door to founding Natural Grocers in 1955 in Lakewood, Colo. The family-owned and operated business grew into a national chain that competed with Whole Foods Market by targeting small to mid-sized markets. Natural Grocers went public in July and closed its first day at $17.86 per share, 19 percent higher than its offering price. Today the NGVC stock is $20.96 per share.

The retailer has tapped into the growing organic foods market, which has risen every year over the last decade. In 2000, organic food accounted for 1.2 percent of total groceries. Today organics make up 4 percent of food sales. Organic food outpaced the growth of total food sales in recent years, according to the Organic Trade Association.

For more information about Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stumptown Smoke Off

All-American Celebrations: Best Barbecue Festivals

No matter which corner of this great nation you hail from, chances are you grew up eating and enjoying barbecue. And if you're familiar with certain stretches of the South and West, you know that barbecue is a food that can incite passions, start arguments over style and method, and bring famlies together for much-loved foods prepared using age-old techniques.

Here we take a look at some of the best barbecue-themed festivals and events across the country — no matter your barbecue prejudices or preferences, you're sure to find one that strikes your fancy.

Searching for more fun, food-themed ways to explore your own backyard? Look no further than our list ofweirdest food festivals from around the world.

By Lauren Haslett


Kentucky State BBQ Festival

This event, located in quaint Danville, Kentucky, is new on the scene, but promises to become a major player in the barbecue festival world in the coming years. Brad Simmons, half of the husband and wife team behind this fest, says he and his other half started the festival last year simply as a way to "share the love of barbecue." He and wife Cindy originally thought to host a block party, which quickly morphed into an event attended by more than 25,000 people, with 9 live bands to entertain them, and over 6,000 pounds of meat to satisfy their barbecue cravings.
This event boasts no cooking competition — as do many of the others on our list — but there is an eating triathlon (which ends in a barbecue sauce-covered slip and slide) for the more ambitious attendees. Brad, Cindy, and their volunteers partnered with the United Way, so much of the proceeds from all this delicious, barbecue-themed indulgence go to an excellent cause.

W.C. Handy Barbecue

This free festival (free!) in Henderson, Kentucky, is one of the largest blues music events in the country. Though it is run by the Henderson Music Preservation Society and the majority of the festival is focused on the music, opening day features the "Taste of Henderson Barbecue" event in Henderson's Central Park. A pig roast and barbecue competition gives attendees a chance to taste some amazing eats prepared by local teams while enjoying the outdoors and the sounds of the blues.

Hogs for the Cause

Down in the heart of Creole country, in the great food city of New Orleans, Louisiana, is Hogs for the Cause, a barbecue festival with a charitable bent. The event, modeled after a traditional Southern pig roast, takes place annually in March (next year's festival is set for March 23, 2013). Though focused on food, music, and fun, the festival also has a greater purpose — to raise funds for children battling debilitating brain cancers and their families.
It's only been around for a couple of years, but this festival is growing quickly. By its third year in operation, Hogs for the Cause had 7,000 attendees and 47 teams competing in its barbecue contest, and by 2012 it had grown to 12,000 attendees, 58 teams, and raised $300,000 for "the cause." One of their most popular barbecue contest categories is pork-purri, in which competitors can barbecue any cut of pig they choose in any way, and really get creative. Other competition categories include butt/shoulder, ribs, whole hog, sauce, and fan favorite.

Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival

If you're looking for a festival that's been around for a few years and is more like a massive, well-oiled barbecue machine — with tons of different locations, vendors, food, drinks, and music — this is the event for you. Because of the focus on alcoholic beverages as well as barbecue, however, we do warn you that it is an adults-only option. With festivals taking place from Manhattan, NY, to Nashille, TN, and Charlotte, NC (and many places in between), barbecue lovers throughout the South and up and down the East Coast can find an event that's easy to travel to and enjoy. Attendees can listen to a mix of bluegrass, country, and rock music while tasting whole-roasted hog, pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and more, and sipping samples of bourbon and craft beers. Unlimited beverage samples are included with admission (prices vary according to location).

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest

This contest is for veteran pit masters and serious barbecue connoisseurs. Around since 1974, the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest in Houston, Texas, is traditionally held the weekend prior to the opening of the Livestock Show and Rodeo, another historic local event that has taken place annually since 1932. A three-day long event, the cooking competition also includes live music and dancing — maybe to help tasters work up a sweat after digging into the delicious barbecue prepared by more than 300 cooking teams.
Elizabeth Greer, the competition's Executive Director, proudly proclaims that the barbecue served at the contest is in true Texan style. It focuses on only three categories — pork ribs, beef brisket, and chicken — and strongly flavored, aromatic woods are used to smoke the meats — they stick strictly to hickory, mesquite, or oak. The event drew nearly 250,000 attendees in 2011, and just as many are expected for the next festival, which will take place in early 2013.
stumptown smoke off logoBackNext

Stumptown Smoke Off

Good barbecue is worth a trek on its own — but good barbecue in a gorgeous natural setting, right at the entrance to Glacier National Park? That's almost indescribable. And yet the Stumptown Smoke Off in Whitefish, Montana, offers just that. The event, hosted by local restaurant Piggyback Barbeque, is only in its second year, but already attracts a wide variety of barbecue connoisseurs. The competition is open to cooks of all levels, from pit masters to beginners, and the 25 teams participating in this year's event (including groups all the way from Calgary, Alberta) will bring a variety of barbecue styles to the table — everything from Texas-style brisket to Memphis-style ribs to Carolina pulled pork is expected. In addition to the delectable barbecue, the Smoke Off includes live music, special activities for the kids, and a hog calling contest.
The event, which is sanctioned by the Pacific Northwest BBQ Association, will take place August 17-19, 2012, and will give away $8,000 in prize money to the winning competitors. Admission for the entire weekend is only $12 per person, and some of the proceeds will go to directly benefit a local charity, The North Valley Food Bank.

Blazin' Hog BBQ Competition and Zydeco Music Festival

This Mariposa, California-based festival is put on entirely to benefit the JCF Foundation, which helps buy equipment and support the local John C. Fremont Hospital. One of the smaller festivals on our list, Blazin' Hog still expects to attract about 3,000 barbecue- and music-lovers at the 2012 festival this September. Rudy Mensinger, Festival Director, joyfully states that his favorite part of the festival is simply "watching everybody having a good time," and he and his team make sure there are plenty of ways for attendees of all ages to do just that. With three different Cajun-style Zydeco bands taking the stage and three different categories of barbecue competition (Beef Tri-Tip, Pork Ribs, and Chicken) that adhere to Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) rules and standards, this festival is fun for the whole family.

Safeway Barbecue Battle

Washington, D.C., may not be the first place you think of when you think of barbecue — but what better place to enjoy this classic American cuisine than in the country's capitol? This enormous festival has been featured in media across the nation, including major magazines like Saveur, and also happens to have a charitable mission — it benefits the Boys and Girls Clubs. Smack dab in the middle of historic Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the only event on our list that boasts spectacular views of some of the nation's most iconic buildings.
This year marks the Battle's 20th year in operation, so it's safe to say that these folks know how to put on a good show. The Battle attracts vendors, chefs, and competitors from all across the country who go head-to-head for a chance to win $40,000 in prizes. Attendees enjoy tastings, demonstrations by chefs and cookbook authors, and live musical entertainment.

Jack Daniel's World Championship Barbecue Invitational

Looking for a big, whopping, classic barbecue cook-off to hit this summer? Look no further than the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue. Now in its 24th year, this event in the heart of barbecue country has good barbecue down to a science. The 2011 Invitational brought 71 U.S. teams, along with 18 international teams, to Lynchburg, Tennessee, also home to the Jack Daniel's distillery.
Affectionately referred to as "The Jack" by locals and longtime attendees (about 25,000 are expected this year), this event allows competitors to test their skills in seven different categories: pork ribs, pork shoulder/butts, beef brisket, chicken, dessert, cook's choice, and Jack Daniel's sauce. The winners are awarded $30,000 in cash and prizes. Aside from the barbecue, other attractions include live music and performances of the traditional dance of the Appalachian region, clogging.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Biggest Problems For Small Business

The Small Business Tax

We created this infographic to raise awareness of an issue important to us and millions of other small businesses. We are a small business ourselves and we serve small businesses. So, for us, it only made sense to bring light to an issue, which not only places a major burden on small business owners, but also rarely receives the attention it deserves.

The business owners we hear from are in the trenches competing, devote their life savings to developing innovative products and services, hiring more staff, and otherwise growing a business for the benefit of family, employees, and community.

Friday, June 15, 2012

2012 BBQ Smoke Off Competition

Live music & great food in downtown Whitefish, MT

As featured on Delish as one of the Best Barbecue Festivals in the U.S.
Welcome to the 2012 Stumptown BBQ Smoke Off! Join us from Friday, August 17th through Sunday, August 19th at Depot Park in Whitefish, Montana, where some of the best BBQ pitmasters, both professional and amateur, in the Flathead Valley, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond, will compete for $8,000 worth of cash and prizes. In addition to this award winning competition, there will be plenty of fun for the entire family, including live music, children's activity, a hog calling contest and (of course) the infamous Miss Piggy contest! As is our tradition, a portion of the proceeds of this event will go to the North Valley Food Bank of Whitefish.

Come On Down

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Who is Piggyback BBQ

We are Whitefish, Montana's ONLY Authentic Pit BBQ restaurant. Stop in and visit Piggyback BBQ at our restaurant, located at 102 Wisconsin Avenue. We're so confident in the quality of the food that we cook up, that we welcome you to tour our kitchen and view "The Pit", where our authentic Montana pit smoking happens! We are committed to the communities in which we work and play, which is why we use local ingredients in almost everything we prepare. This includes using Flathead Cherry Wood, which gives our food a classic, homecooked style taste. We pride ourselves in serving you, our customers, with only our best.

About Whitefish, Montana

There is only ONE Whitefish, Montana! Tucked tight against Big Mountain, and the stunning peaks of Glacier National Park, Whitefish is a year around playground steeped in the romance of the rails. Cafes mingle with gourmet restaurants, general stores, galleries and boutiques, with a variety of western bars to suit any mood. For more information about our location, or for lodging or dining recommendations, and for our current weather forecast, please visit our Whitefish page.