Chalet Market: A Snapshot Of Old-Time Gallatin Valley
Angie Ripple | Friday Jul. 1st, 2022
A lot has changed in the Gallatin Valley over the past few decades, but Belgrade’s Chalet Market [6410 Jackrabbit Lane] isn’t one of them. The majority of the building, established in 1977, houses a USDA meat plant, where Gwen and Mark Croghan have been making a large variety of sausage, jerky, and deli meats since 2012. When you enter the Chalet-style building with its dramatic, triangular profile, and overhanging, pointy eaves, you will quickly be met by a welcoming ‘hello,’ and a deli case full of delicious options, from desserts to sandwich wraps. After placing your lunch order, wander through one of the very best Made in Montana product shops in the state! The Chalet Market truly is a snapshot of old-time Gallatin Valley going strong for nearly 50 years.
Angie Ripple: How was Chalet Market conceptualized?
Gwen Croghan: You know, it’s been here since 1977; the story I got was that a group of ranchers got together, trying to figure out a way to create a value-added program for their own meat. I met a guy who was one of the people who started it; I don’t think they ever slaughtered here, but they would break down full animals from the carcass, and they’d been doing that a while when they added the deli.
Mark and I were the fifth owners, so each owner has changed it a little, and added things. For a long time, we were the only USDA meat plant in the valley, and now Daniels (Daniels Gourmet Meats and Sausage) is also USDA; that just allows us to sell across state lines. In the 70s they began the value-added program, but I don’t think the original owners did a lot of buffalo and elk; I think it was more beef. We’ve always made sausage and bratwurst. We make all our own deli meats [excluding turkey], all the roast beef, the ham, all of those bolognas, salamis, all that stuff that goes on our sandwiches. And all those recipes… when we bought the business, we got all the recipes. So we have only added items, we really haven’t changed much.
Since we are a USDA meat plant, we can only purchase meat in the USDA system. So, it has to be slaughtered at a USDA facility; we buy mostly trim, and turn it into sausage. So, a local rancher could take their animal to a USDA slaughter facility and we could purchase it.
AR: What would you say makes you unique in the local food scene?
GC: Well, I think the fact that we make all our deli meats, so you cannot get our sandwiches anywhere else. Even the turkey croissant, because we make our own bacon, our peppered bacon. So, everything is just unique that way. And then, all of our soups are made from scratch. All of our salads are made from scratch, our desserts. So, it’s all home cooking.
AR: What would you say your regulars keep coming back for?
GC: Lunch and breakfast [laughs], and then the gift boxes. At Christmas, we’ve had companies buy gift boxes for eons. But we have people that eat here every day; there are people who come here twice a day, three times a day. They’ll come and get their breakfast, grab lunch while they’re at it, get a sandwich—and then they’ll come back in the afternoon and get a beer and snack stick for the ride home.
AR: What is one of the most popular breakfasts?
GC: Probably the biscuit sandwiches. Three times a week we do a biscuit with ham, egg and cheese. And we have a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit sandwich, and the ultimate breakfast sausage biscuit. So, this sausage we make is pretty cool; it has bacon, hash browns, hard-boiled eggs, peppers, and cheese, and it’s all inside of the sausage. We cook up that sausage, and you can get egg and cheese on it if you want, for the ultimate breakfast sausage biscuit.
AR: Wow! What do you want people to experience when they walk through your doors?
GC: Well, nothing’s changed in a long time. So, it’s kind of like that little snapshot of old-time Gallatin Valley. Our staff is so great, and they know people’s names, and people can walk in and say, I want a biscuit, and we’ll know exactly how they like it. Or like today [Friday] is the buffalo chicken wrap special, and people will say, “just make me my wrap my way.”
The lady who used to manage the deli just retired in May; she had worked here for almost 27 years. And before we bought the business, the manager had been here since it opened. Her name was Glenda; everyone loved Glenda! People would come in just to be with her. Unfortunately, she passed away right after we bought the place in 2012.
AR: Do you want to expand on the walking through the doors for anybody who hasn’t been here?
GC: Well, I mean, we won an award a few years ago, from the Department of Commerce for the best retail in the state, and that’s based on Made in Montana stuff. So, that’s our big focus and we go deep; we find lots of interesting little things. And so that’s something to come here for. And then just sort of a fun gift shop where we put in silly things and unique things. We try to just make it so it’s nothing you could find anywhere else. And a nice selection of beer. We really try to do lots of Montana beers, and you can buy them singly, so that’s kinda fun; you can try a variety and not commit to a six-pack. We have a lot of nice wine that we carry in our wine selection, as well as cheese.
I worked around the corner for 11 years before we bought this, and I started shopping here. I’d think ‘oh, I need to buy a present.’ I’d go get lunch and get a present… once you figure it out and know we’re here, it kind of serves tons of needs.
AR: What is your personal favorite menu item?
GC: It’s funny, because no matter what I eat here, I end up saying, “wow, that was really good!” The Reuben is really good, and the soups are really good. They’re pretty hearty, and really, just decadent and delicious, and they fill you up. And the broccoli salad, everyone loves that!
AR: What do you personally enjoy most about being part of the Belgrade community?
GC: I think just how nice all the customers are. They are really down-to-earth, and just great, hard-working people. Like I said, I had worked out here for 11 years, and now we’ve owned this for 10. So I’ve been doing Belgrade for 21 years, but I live in Bozeman. Belgrade is just a charming community, really.
AR: Do you have anything coming up that you’d like to readers to know about in July or August?
GC: We’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing, and get ready for Christmas. We’ve pulled back on some of the things we used to do, like the Farmers’ Market, and our burger trailer out front, but it’s too hard to get out now. Literally, it’s staffing, and we just keep getting busier and busier. Yellowstone visitors can find our jerky in the Park. We deliver buffalo. elk, and venison jerky, snack sticks and sausage every week to Yellowstone General Stores in the Park. And, of course, the biggest sellers are anything made out of buffalo or elk.
Don’t wait for Christmas to check out Chalet Market in Belgrade. While you may well find some early Holiday gifts among the abundant Made in Montana merchandise, you’ll definitely enjoy delicious, Montana-made fare on the spot, whether you’re hungry for breakfast, lunch, or a snack to go.