By Maria Wyllie
Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant
BIG SKY—You wouldn’t typically expect a bakery to win best coffee and pizza in the annual Best of Big Sky Awards. But the Blue Moon Bakery isn’t just any bakery.
Although they make bread and traditional baked goods, Blue Moon also makes breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads and gourmet pizza, and serves beer and fresh coffee. And they deliver.
“Offering delicious, homemade food at a fair price is the key to success for us,” said co-owner Christian Johnsen. “We want to be the place where people meet up and you can hang out and get a cheap meal.”
Owners Amy and Christian Johnsen purchased the bakery in March of 2001 from people who were running it as a traditional bakery, selling baked goods and closing at 2 p.m. daily. Business was slow, and the building was incomplete with no upstairs seating or a public restroom, but Amy and Christian saw a lot of potential for the space.
The Johnsens purchased the bakery and immediately installed pizza ovens and made a faster, more efficient operation. With no one else delivering in the meadow back then, pizza was a big expansion of the business.
Prior to buying the bakery, Amy and Christian worked in restaurants for around 20 years, giving them the experience needed to run a successful business.
Christian oversees yeast-based goods, such as the pizza and bread, while Amy runs the non-yeast baking side of things. However, the Johnsens have recently been able to step back from the operation and have full-time employees baking for them.
“Something we’re most proud of is our relationship with our employees. We have people who have worked for us for a long time,” said Christian. “We couldn’t do it without them—especially since we’ve taken a step back.”
Skylar Burkman, who’s worked at Blue Moon for six years, enjoys the fun, positive environment instilled by the Johnsens.
“It’s a lot of fun, and everyone gets along. Christian and Amy are awesome people. I think that’s why their employees stay here and really care about the restaurant,” Burkman said.
The Blue Moon is happy to have business from tourists, but is foremost dedicated to serving Big Sky’s locals. The “locals’ discount,” which gives locals up to 3 free pizza toppings, is one way they show their appreciation and love for the community.
“Our philosophy is to feed the people that live here and hook them up,” said Christian.
The Johnsens haven’t changed the menu much since they started, as people seem to like it, and they don’t want to eliminate any items people come back for on a regular basis. They have recently, however, introduced biscuits and gravy to the menu and have lunch specials on occasion.
Voted best pizza and coffee by locals for the second year in a row, there’s no doubt the Johnsens know what they’re doing. Finding the right coffee and the right way to work the dough wasn’t an easy task though.
Amy and Christian went through a long process of searching and did lots of tastings before choosing Cravens Coffee out of Missoula, which is organic fair trade and freshly roasted. In the summer, cold brew coffees are a huge hit.
Learning how the dough reacts has been an ongoing learning process, and they will keep trying to improve it, but, according to Christian, they have gotten the technique down and are serving far better pizza than they served 5 years ago.
Although Amy and Christian have recently stepped back and let their employees run the bakery for them, you can still find the couple in the back baking treats and throwing pizza dough. Or maybe just hanging out.