The new Odd Fellows Coffee House in Columbia Falls is about friends and family. Diane Smith, Dave Pickeral and their daughter Ally along with longtime friends Triana Bouillon and Courtney VonLindern have made Columbia Falls newest hang out spot a success since it opened in July.
Ally, Bouillon and VonLindern have been friends since grade school. Ally moved up here from Bozeman to begin work on the coffee shop after Dave decided to convert the space, which had been a hair salon, into a coffee place.
It seemed like a good location. Dave and Diane had been living in an apartment upstairs while their house was being worked on and they noticed the street below was always busy, with city hall and the library right across the way and Glacier Gateway School about a block away.
After nearly a year of remodeling, with lots of help from local carpenter and friend Alex Negron, the shop opened on July 17.
“It’s been really fun so far. I get to meet people instead of being covered in sawdust,” Ally said, the sawdust a reference to the months of remodeling.
The shop has a bright, homey, feel, with reclaimed wood walls and big windows that look out onto the street. The Wifi, of course, is free and there’s an outlet about every two feet to charge whatever device a customer might be peering into as they sip their latte.
The business keeps growing organically. They’ve recently added a “late night” study hall on Tuesday’s from 5 to 9 p.m. that’s proven popular with high school students who want to a place to hang, hit the books and get caffeinated. The shop also recently a hosted a Facebook Live event with the Glacier National Park Conservancy, which featured a live interview with Superintendent Jeff Mow.
They’re also considering having open mic nights in the future.
The shop features baked goods and quiche from noted baker Beth Dix of Delectable Desserts of Kalispell. They hope to add soup, soon.
The building itself is one of the oldest in the city, dating back to 1891. Dave bought it about 12 years ago. He noted that at one time it had a shooting range in the basement.
There are no plans to reopen the range, he noted with a laugh.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows began in 18th Century England, the organization’s web site notes. It was deemed odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need without recognition and pursuing projects for the benefits of all mankind – thus the name.
Locally, the organization doesn’t appear to still have any members.
Dave is a former producer for the Discovery Channel and now is the manager of the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.
Smith is an attorney and ran for unsuccessfully for Montana’s lone Congressional seat in 2012 as a Democrat. Today she says she “consults on the intersection of technology and rural America.”
Smith said the success of the coffee house is a greater reflection on Columbia Falls.
“Folks like living downtown and they want to be in downtown,” she said.
The shop is open six days a week starting bright and early at 7 a.m. It is closed on Sundays.
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