Mountain Berry Bowls

Saturday Jun. 1st, 2024

Mountain Berry Bowls–Bozeman started as a leap of faith for Julie and Jonathan Sestrich. Ready for something that would knit them more fully into the community, the couple turned their business skills (and their joyful hearts) to running a food truck, something that no one else in either of their families had ever done. May 4th marked the highly anticipated beginning of their fifth season of serving Bozeman’s freshest smoothie bowls.

Gretchen Jensen: How was MBB-BZN conceptualized?

Julie M Sestrich: We first visited Mountain Berry Bowls in Whitefish in September of 2019. At that time, I was working remotely for Miller Coors corporate, and in the early spring of 2020, I took voluntary severance when Miller Coors shut down the Golden, Colorado, office. The Covid lockdowns started literally weeks after that. I knew I had a job through June 30, but didn’t know what I was going to do after that.

Jonathan J Sestrich: When we started looking at our other options, nothing seemed very inspiring, so we thought more about what we could do ourselves. We have very complementary skill sets, and had thought for a long time that it would be great to run a business together. We also really wanted to feel more connected to the community. We remembered the visit to Mountain Berry Bowls in Whitefish, and wondered if they might be interested in franchising.

JMS: It was the least thought-out move we’ve made in our lives, but we reached out anyway. The owners had actually been planning to expand to Bozeman and even had a truck ready to go, but Covid turned their plans upside down, too.

JJS: It took us almost exactly a month to make it through all the hoops to run a food truck in Bozeman.

JMS: On the afternoon of June 30, I closed my laptop on my last day at Miller Coors, and we climbed into the new truck and went to our launch at the farmer’s market.

JJS: We kind of fell into it, but we have made it what we want it to be.

GJ: What would you like people to experience when they visit your trucks?

JMS: We challenge ourselves and our employees to make every visit something that customers look forward to—something that improves their day. Customers get a reliably fresh and healthy smoothie bowl every visit, of course, but just as important, they get legitimate connection. It’s fun to catch up with regulars to find out how they’re doing, how their winters were.

GJ: What menu items do regulars keep coming back for?

JMS: All our bowls are named after local features and landmarks. “The Hyalite (of my day!),” which is strawberry, banana, blueberry, kiwi, coconut, bee pollen, and honey—with added almond butter and mango—is probably the most popular of the named bowls.

: People really like how fresh the fruits are, and once they’ve tried the named bowls, they tend to gravitate toward DIY bowls with hearty toppings. All bowls start with the açaí smoothie and granola, and are “custamiza-bowl” from there. Freshness and friendliness are really what people visit us for.

GJ: Do each of you have a favorite menu item?

JMS: I like the base of smoothie and granola plus a DIY mix of almond butter, goji berries, cacao nibs, mango, bananas, and almond shavings.

JJS: I like a DIY too, with almond butter, goji berries, hemp hearts, cacao nibs, coconut, and honey.

GJ: What would you say makes MBB BZN unique in the greater Bozeman food scene?

JMS: We’re 100% dairy-free, certified 100% gluten-free, and we don’t charge people extra for those. Quality and freshness come standard for everyone, and people really seek us out for that. We don’t have any hidden ingredients. (The only ingredient that is hard to pronounce is açaí!) Plus, we’re one of a handful of food trucks that run on solar and battery; we’re leaders there.

JJS: We’re the only mobile unit that does our entire smoothie from scratch, starting with the açaí berry base. Freeze-drying is the best way to preserve acai’s tanginess and nutrients, so we start with freeze-dried açaí instead of liquid or frozen, which have additives, preservatives, and added sugar.

GJ: What do you personally enjoy most about being part of the Bozeman community?

JJS: The relationships we build with our employees is really rewarding. We have an environment that is more like a mentorship than “just a job.” Most of our employees are high school or college students, and no matter how young or old, no matter what jobs they’ve had before, everyone plays by “adult rules.” That means no one is more or less important, everyone gets the same intense training, and we all hold each other accountable to the same high standards.

JMS: It’s great to be part of our regular customers’ routines. I started a habit of keeping sticky notes in the cash drawer with names and little descriptions of regulars so that I could greet them by name. One summer, an older regular named Anna went missing for a couple of weeks, and I was worried. I had Anna’s phone number, and as it turned out, she was having some back issues, and was self-conscious about showing up to the food truck walking with the cane that she needed to get around with until she could have back surgery. I offered to deliver her regular weekly smoothie bowl, but Anna made up her mind that she wasn’t going to let that cane embarrass her, and was at the truck the next day.

JJS: We’ve also connected with other local small businesses, like Front Porch Chocolate, where we get the cacao nibs for our bowls. Working together, we lift each other up, and that’s the stuff that feels really good.

GJ: Is there anything coming up that readers should know about?

JJS: One truck is at our regular location at 901 West Main seven days a week during the season. Our second location moves to different spots and events, and is available for catering. Instagram and Facebook are the best places to find the second location.    

Gretchen Jensen’s superpower is curiosity. She is the production manager for two magazines and two kids, as well as being an avid reader and gardener.