By Michael Somerby EBS Digital Editor
BIG SKY – After nearly 25 years of Robin family ownership in Big Sky, the Hungry Moose Market and Deli officially traded hands on Feb. 11, starting a new chapter for the iconic local food provider.
Effective this month, Frank and Kristin Kern will assume proprietorship of both the Town Center and Big Sky Resort locations. Kristin, niece of Big Sky Resort founder and famed newscaster Chet Huntley, and her husband believe the transition will preserve the community-driven character of the brand.
“We watched it evolve from a 700-square-foot location to 1,500 square feet to a new building entirely with an additional satellite kitchen, and then to opening a new location at the resort,” said Frank, who retired in December 2018 from his role as chairman of Altran, a global leader in engineering and R & D services.
“The big message with this transition is that nothing is changing,” he added. “We want to maintain the Big Sky family-owned legacy that is the Hungry Moose Market and Deli. It has a role in this community.”
In December 2017 Mark Robin passed away from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. His dedication to the Hungry Moose Market and Deli made it what it is today.
“Everybody knew Mark,” Jackie said. “Mark was the heart of this business. He worked harder than anyone, and was an icon in this town. I’m grateful the new ownership wants to carry on the legacy of what we built, and will run the Hungry Moose Market and Deli with the same passion.”
Jackie and her son Andrew Robin will continue working with the Kerns and Moose staff into the summer. Ultimately, the Kerns hope to carry on the business independently, but under the direction of the time-tested practices carved out by the two-and-a-half decades of Robin ownership.
“We’re extremely excited that Jackie will still be part of it all,” Frank said. “We need her to guide us. We want the original DNA of what made the Hungry Moose Market and Deli great; to carry the legacy of what the Robins started.”
Mark and Jackie Robin moved to Big Sky in the fall of 1993, opening a roadside produce stand the following summer. Offering fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers to the Big Sky community, this venture inspired the opening of a small retail shop that expanded rapidly, adding a deli in 1998.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Hungry Moose Market and Deli became a pillar of Big Sky enterprise, practically writing the book on efficient business practice in conjunction with healthy Big Sky community involvement.
In fact, Jackie wrote a 10-itemed “Moose Mantra,” while on drives to her sons’ six-man football games. Written from the perspective of a customer, bullets of the mantra include, “I always receive a sincere greeting from staff members,” “They know me here. I feel welcomed and well-cared for,” and “A visit to the Hungry Moose might even make my day.”
Those hallmarks of service at the Hungry Moose are byproducts of the Robins’ emphasis on employee wellness. For instance, in a town infamous for a lack of affordable workforce housing, the couple solved the problem for their own business, offering four housing units for their staff.
The Robins also elected to establish a human resources department, an unusual act for a relatively small business, ensuring the best possible care for the staff, the individuals that make it all possible through their matched devotion to the missions of the Hungry Moose.
The cornerstone of the business, and what sets the Hungry Moose Market and Deli apart from the herd, is an absolute dedication to the community’s needs. Both Hungry Moose locations—on Aspen Leaf Drive in Town Center and in the Mountain Mall at Big Sky Resort—are open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
“People know we’re here for them as we’ve created a culture of good work ethic,” Jackie said. “We watched businesses come and go in this town because people couldn’t put themselves fully into it. They hired a manager or saw it as a side project. Mark and I were all in from the start.”
Over the past two summers, the Robins have organized a beloved community event together with the Arts Council of Big Sky called Big Sky Soul Shine, a carnival and concert that serves as a fundraiser for ALS causes, a thank you to the community that rallied around Mark, and to celebrate the life and spirit of the man that built the Hungry Moose. This summer’s event marks a particularly special Soul Shine, one that will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Hungry Moose Market and Deli and the welcoming of the Kerns.
Join the Robins, the Kerns and the Big Sky community June 20 in Town Center for this year’s Big Sky Soul Shine.
Visit bigskysoulshine.org/ for more information on Big Sky Soul Shine.