(soft music) - [Host] Montanan's trust in homegrown goods, whether they're handcrafted knives from Wisdom or hot pizza pies from Glasgow.
- [Ben Kenealey] When you come to a local shop and get something made, it's the only one.
There's no duplicate of it.
- [Host] The following stories explore the hard work and creativity behind five businesses that produce unique products with a Montana style.
- [Kyle Lindy] Sometimes we don't like to follow the rules and we like to experiment and we like to do things better quite frankly, than the status quo.
- [Clink Stocks] That's what I really like about making things by hand.
There is a sense of accomplishment.
- [Host] This is Homegrown and Handcrafted.
This University of Montana School of Journalism production was made possible with production support from the Greater Montana Foundation, encouraging communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans and by the University of Montana.
- It's difficult to go against the tide.
When we very first started, we got laughed out of the valley because we were leaving the biggest and best trees and people hated that.
(soft music) - [Kyle Lindy] There's a really strong idea in this world in that the best wood always comes from somewhere else and the reality is we have great wood right here in our backyards.
- I met Lindy 10 plus years ago.
Lindy came out over to the mill and we chatted and pretty soon he's out there making sawdust for me.
(dramatic music) - There's some satisfaction in taking something that a lot of the commercial timber industry has deemed not valuable and turning that into a stable quality product.
I'm not gonna take a tree out just because it fits the mill specs that I need.
I have to have a good reason to take it out that it's gonna enhance that forest health.
- [Mark] Bad Goat is a sustainable lumber company and also a value added wood products shop.
- And our whole business is basically built on taking what was traditionally a waste product and turning it into something that's beautiful and lasting.
After we've gone through the whole process of taking a living green tree, now we're ready to actually do something with it.
We have two sawmills.
One is a swing blade circular sawmill that allows us to cut square beams and square boards without turning the log.
And then we have a band saw that just makes horizontal cuts and we use that a lot for processing our larger diameter urban salvage trees.
Once we've got our live edge slabs identified that we're going to work with to make a table then we bring them into the shop and we just make sure all the knots and the grain lines up really good in a mirrored image way.
We rip off and join the two pieces together with wood glue and dominoes.
The dominoes make sure everything gets lined up really nice and does add a little extra strength even though the glue is very strong.
- I really like working with my hands on things that have a practical purpose.
So I really like elevating a table, just taking something that's very simple at its core and elevating it to a level where it's really nice to touch, really nice to look at, is an art piece in some people's perspective of it.
- The work they do here is different.
It takes an above average amount of skill which I don't have, but these folks sure do.
Selling to Lindy was a great feeling and the company has never been in better hands.
He has improved everything about the operation, just everything.
The wood quality has jumped way up.
- The immediate impact of our forestry practices are pretty hard to overstate.
When we cut the trees that are competing in the drip line away from the, those over story trees, they immediately have more sun, they immediately have more water and growth rates go right back up.
We do lop and scatter with our tree tops and limbs and that adds a lot of water holding capacity to the soil, using that brush also to protect other trees so that they don't get browsed by deer.
We use the light on the land techniques of using, you know, up to 200 foot cables to pull trees in from long ways away.
Our timber property that we manage is a piece of family ground.
And my wife Ashley has always been very involved with the business till the birth of our son recently.
Been definitely difficult having to come here, run the business, take on all her duties since she's at home with the baby.
A western Montana is full of forests that require basically an assist.
My son is gonna inherit a forest that is healthier than the day that I inherited it.
(gentle music) - Most of my life, my career, you know, there wasn't really a sense of accomplishment.
That's what I really like about making things by hand.
There is a sense of accomplishment.
You can actually see the finished product.
My name's Clint Stocks.
I live in Wisdom, Montana.
I'm disabled and I build knives and do small leather projects.
H Bar N CraftWorks is the name of the business.
That's from our cattle brand.
I started making knives, well building them, when we moved out here in 2014.
How it started is I wanted something of a purpose 'cause I lost that purpose, and also to supplement our income.
Living on disability is, it is not much money.
And I know this may sound a little weird but I kinda wait for the knife to talk to me.
I know that sounds kind woo-hoo.
But yeah, a knife will tell me what it wants, what it wants to look like.
(soft music) I've never really counted, but probably 30 to 50 knives per year, and you know, I make sheaths for every one of them.
Making a sheath, that's a good six hours and depending on the sheath, six to eight.
And there's all kinds of finishing steps involved in each step.
I'll hand sew it, glue it, hand dye it.
I've got MS, and I'm real fortunate I'm not in a wheelchair and my medication has kept it at bay.
But it does affect me.
Because you can feel pretty isolated, you know, within your own head, having your own business.
So having a working partner kind of helps you get out of that, you know, your own little bubble as it were.
- It's good to have a husband who's a knife maker 'cause I've always got the sharpest scissors in town.
It literally makes my work easier.
I make tool rolls, I make watch rolls, I make bags and totes and I can do custom if somebody has a weird set of tools.
I'm the head boss lady.
We're pretty much equal partners.
I do all of the bookkeeping and that sort of thing but we both make our own items.
We met in the recording studio.
We were both session musicians on a children's album of Buddhist rounds.
We lived in Knoxville and Reno briefly in the early 2000s.
We moved there for work and then we've lived here ever since 2014.
Most recently I've gotten into restoring costume jewelry which is something I've collected since I was a teenager.
It's taking vintage and sometimes antique pieces and swapping out the stones, either with a faithful restoration so that it looks brand new again, or in some cases taking out everything because the color scheme just doesn't speak to me.
(soft music) Because we are an online business, it's inconsistent.
You know, it's not like opening your store from nine to five every day and the people come in.
You have to make yourself stand out and you have to make sure that you've got the range of products people are looking for.
- I've lived in rural areas most of my life but this is probably the most rural.
I mean we're pretty much 70 miles from anywhere.
If you got the gumption, anybody can be self-employed.
I mean, it's hard work but it can be done and it can be freeing for some people.
(soft music) - Neon has a warm, welcoming glow to it.
It's eyecatching, it's reliable.
It also has a nostalgia feel to it.
I am Ben Kenealey.
I was born and raised in California, lived in Sacramento up until about three years ago.
This is Lights in the Night Neon.
It's been around as long as I have.
I do neon lights, so I'm the guy who does the glass bending, the pumping.
I'll do design work.
I go out and do service on existing signs.
I get a lot of signs in that need to be repaired.
When you come to a local shop and get something made, it's the only one.
There's no duplicate of it.
And even if I did duplicate things, they're not the same.
A lot of these beer signs, they're getting made around jigs so they look exactly the same.
And I honestly, I think they're boring.
I'm a member of this American Scientific Glassblowers Society and they send out their quarterly journals.
And one time I get the journal, I'm flipping the journal, I'm looking at it.
And I get to the one page that they talk about how the University of Montana Western has expanded their glass blowing program to include scientific glass blowing.
And I had this strong impression, go.
So we packed up and moved here and I went back to schools.
Here's the project right now.
Making a cow skull.
Neon patterns are always reversed because you bend it down so that the surface of your glass you're gonna look at is faced on the table so everything's flat, and you pick it up and there it is.
So everything has to be reversed.
It's a process of taking glass tubing in whatever particular diameter you need and heating up particular sections to get the shape you want.
And you attach electrodes onto that.
And once you've gotten to that point, you take it over to be processed where using a combination of electricity and vacuum, you bring the glass up to 450 degrees and then you draw everything out of it to get it down to as close to absolute total vacuum as we can get it with the equipment we have.
After you let it cool down, you backfill it with whichever gas you're gonna use.
That's what we want right there.
And close it off and you have a neon sign.
I like to tell people the first thing you do when you start to learn how to work with glass is you fill up the trash can with garbage because glass is a temperamental material to work with.
It's prone to cracking if you don't heat it properly.
It could mean that the whole piece of glass you've been working on is trash.
Ah, no good.
- [Shannon Masten] Each time my children are more creative or my husband is more creative, it just brightens my heart.
- [Ben] It's pretty rare for me to say I can't do something.
And most of the time people come to me looking for neon specifically and sometimes other signs.
But I don't typically turn people away for most projects.
I like to eat.
I seem to collect hobbies and move from hobby to hobby.
I've done judo and rock climbing and I love doing some magic and juggling.
I do balloon animals.
There's just so many interesting things to do.
It's a kitty cat.
And I think one thing about neon was that it started off as work and kind of became a hobby, and then it was work and I had to push past that still because it was work.
- [Shannon Masten]- I love being married to a neon maker.
I love being around my husband.
The children are learning it, they're learning how to bend.
My whole family appears to be very creative and in fact we are and we encourage that.
- You want me to bend this?
- I think it's a way to express ourselves and to express how we see the world.
We need to add more light into the world.
We need more neon.
(gentle music) - My name is Rob Slader and I'm an employee here at Montana Candy Emporium.
I work on making chocolates and other handmade goodies and helping customers find their candy and showing them around the museum of the store.
So that's all I do, is I make candy and help customers basically, and crank up the music.
(upbeat music) So we do handmade chocolates, and that's kind of a variety of different like little novelty things, like we do chocolate covered pretzels and turtles.
So what I'm gonna make for you guys today is I have some turtles here.
And for these, we just take regular caramel and we mold it into little patties and then we dip those into the kettle with chocolate.
See those ones turned out.
I never thought I'd be doing this when I was a little kid even though this was actually one of my first jobs coming up here in the summer.
My uncle, the proprietor of this place is Mike Majerus, and he started this place in the early 90s with my grandma.
He was on the volunteer fire department here, for I wanna say at least 20 years.
And he was the fire chief, and with my grandfather being a part of the fire department as well.
I think he really enjoyed that.
But once the candy got hold of him, I think that was the, he was like, this is what I was meant to do.
My uncle does the fudge, but I only do the tiny handmade stuff right now.
(soft music) You know, so he started collecting when he was very young.
I think he kind of has a sense of nostalgia and like love for the past because he just has done it his whole life and it's kind of, he's turned that into his work.
It adds to the old time candy and people really enjoy seeing all the memorabilia and the bikes and kind of like a little slice of history from Americana.
I think we do get a lot of local business.
There's a great sense of community here for how small and isolated it is.
It is really a tourism based economy here because people want to go to Yellowstone and they want to go ski and it's great to see people come in from all over the world.
I mean, I've literally seen people from every continent here.
- Our three-year-old was just talking about stopping at the candy store on the way down the hill from getting the tree.
The decor is really neat.
But definitely the selection of candy is just very eclectic.
It's got a little bit of everything.
Something that everybody likes in here.
- So originally this place was built in 1917 as the Iris Theater.
And then briefly, I believe it became a general store as well.
I was gonna have to take a job in New York, wanted to try something new and I figured, I'm this young I have a chance to take a risk, and I did.
I thought I was a city boy, but I'm not.
I just couldn't live in Manhattan.
I couldn't do it because I really like Red Lodge and I think it'd be a great place to make a home here.
I guess the future will tell.
Maybe someday I'll be able to make the fudge.
- I think the special part of our pizza is of course the ovens.
All those ovens have been around since 1962, 1967 and 1974, I believe.
One thing that people like about our pizza is it's not a thick dough.
It's not a thick crust.
It's a really crackery crispy crust.
But I still think that's part of the secret, is the dough, the sauce and the ovens and then it's our care that makes it come out right.
You know, it's kind of a labor of love even when it's tiring.
Jeff and I have owned Eugene's since 1992 but I've been going to that very same building since I was 11 months old because my parents bought it in 1967.
- [Mary] We started with very little money.
For the first three years my husband cleaned also so that we could, you know, just keep our heads above water.
And I had four small children.
Sam was only 11 months old and we just did the best we could with what we had.
- [Max] We try to make just about everything from scratch.
Everything from our dough to our sauce, to our dressing, all that stuff's made from scratch.
And I think that's what sets us apart from not just other pizza places, but other food service industries.
I started to help out with the barbecue bottling when I came back from a previous job in Glendive.
Dad had occasionally asked me to help with barbecue and I said yes almost every time.
And now it's something we do once or twice a week, if not more.
It's really satisfying to see your product not just on display in the business, but we also have our product on store shelves across the state of Montana.
And I know that almost, you know, there's a 98% chance that that bottle has passed through my hands.
I have filled it.
I have personally mixed the sauce.
I think I would say the most important part for me is the pride of ownership and the pride of manufacturer.
- [Jeff] keeping it in the Knodel family, I don't know if I want my kids to have to work as hard as I've had to work, and I don't know if Sam wants Max to work as hard as Sam has had to work over the years.
It's not easy.
Not everybody can do what we do.
- [Mary] Sometimes I wouldn't wish this on anyone, you know, but, you know, it's a great business.
We have great customers, but it is very hands on.
It's just, it's hard.
I don't know if I'd, if I would wish this on Maxwell.
- [Max] Eugene's has played a ve crucial role in my life.
I've basically grown up here.
I remember being as a kid, I'd always be hanging out in the back, making little box forts with a steak knife and an old cardboard box or something like that.
And watching my grandma work and my dad and my uncle work has helped me really develop my work ethic personally and has helped me to appreciate, not just the way that we work down here, but the way that all food service employees are expected to work especially in a caliber of restaurant such as ours.
We're really lucky to have my grandmother, she's 85 and still working every single day.
- [Sam] Well, my mom is, I call her the hardest working mom in America because she's 85 years old, she's here every single day.
She never quits.
She cleans the cookers, she cleans the fryers, she chops all the lettuce to make sure it's all top notch.
She does all the dough and back, like when we're really busy out front, we need somebody constantly supplying us with dough because we're going through it so fast.
So she's in back cutting the dough.
Yeah, she's a huge part of that place and you just, you can't replace somebody like that.
- [Max] It's a big part of being third generation.
And I also have a lot of pride for the legacy that my family's put before me and hopefully I can continue to carry it on someday.
- [Mary] I'm proud of the boys and I'm proud of what Arlie and I did.
It's just important to keep it going.
We're a big part of Glasgow, I think.
(soft music) - [Host] This University of Montana, School of Journalism production was made possible with production support from the Greater Montana Foundation, encouraging communication on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans and by the University of Montana.