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Making it in Big Sky: By Word of Mouth

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Before COVID-19, the BYWOM bar was packed with locals looking for some great food and company. PHOTO BY SARAH GIANELLI

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – For 25 years, By Word of Mouth has been filling the bellies of Big Sky locals with a variety of great food. BYWOM originally opened in 1993 as a deli and wine shop. Pam and John Flach took over operations in the summer of 1994 and purchased the business in November of 1995 from Lindy Adleman, the original owner.

In 1999, BYWOM expanded from two to three suites and became a restaurant. Then, in 2005, BYWOM again expanded. More recently, the space was remodeled to add a bike shop, the Shred Shed, run by Sky Jackson. The addition offers bike tunes and beer.

Pam and John made their way to Big Sky separately and met when they were both working at Buck’s T4 Lodge. After finishing her studies at Montana State University, Pam returned to Big Sky to work for a summer and she said that, “he was a chef, I was a waitress, such a good love story.”

John moved to Big Sky permanently in 1987. His first formal cooking job was working for Kurt Sanborn, former executive chef, at Big Sky Resort’s Huntley Lodge.

Both Pam and John were in the restaurant business long before purchasing BYWOM. Pam started waitressing in college while John began his career in the kitchen at 15 years old. 

Now, when you visit BYWOM, you will find Pam out front ready to greet you and seat you with a smile and John will be in the kitchen working his culinary magic.

The 25th anniversary of BYWOM was on Nov. 31, 2020. Explore Big Sky talked with Pam and John to learn more about the history and growth of their restaurant over the years.

Explore Big Sky: How has it been watching Big Sky grow?

Pam and John Flach: “Watching the growth is hard but we really try to focus on our restaurant, family and friends and not let it get us down. Our kids have loved growing up here. Some growth has been great…the trails have been so fun both summer and winter. It’s a privilege to walk out the door and connect with one.”    

EBS: What is your favorite item on the menu?

P&JF: “There are so many great things on our menu, it is hard to pick a favorite. The BYWOM burger of course, especially when we can eat it outdoors at the concerts. I think the wings follow at a close second. Everything is really good.” 

EBS: Tell me about your Friday night fish fry?

P&JF: “The fish fry was John’s idea, being from Wisconsin. We started our fish fry the day we finally got our liquor license. It used to happen every Friday night, all you can eat and had a line out the door, just a really fun local night. We eventually had to change it to the first Friday of the month, the prep just got to be too much, we make it all from scratch.”

EBS: What makes your burgers so good?

P&JF: “Love.”

EBS: What is your favorite memory from working at BYWOM?

P&JF: “After 25 years, there are too many to mention. We just really enjoy working with our employees—it always feels like family. It makes coming to work fun for the most part. The loyal regulars are the best, we have had some great times. Pre COVID, there were a few dance parties on our bar…if that pole could talk.”

EBS: Do you have any notable regulars?

P&JF: “Sam Wilson has a special spot at our bar, name and all. He visits for fish fry’s and Coca-Cola’s now. Our locals know who they are, and it is so fun to see them all. Lots of Dirtbag Royalty.”

EBS: When is your busiest time?

P&JF: “We are a little busier consistently in the winter but being a local restaurant in the neighborhood we stay plenty busy year-round.” 

EBS: Has it been difficult adapting to CDC guidelines during COVID?

P&JF: “Wearing a mask for hours on end can get a little old but it has kept us safe, so we are happy to do it. We do miss having a full bar and the camaraderie that comes with that.”


EBS: What is the best business advice you have ever received?

P&JF: “Listen to your customers and be present at your business… ‘be nice.’”

EBS: Anything else you want the community to know?

P&JF: “We did some remodeling and added a bike shop during COVID take out season. Sky Jackson is repairing bikes in our old wait station. It was a lot of wasted space that is put to some great use now. We are looking forward to the summer season, it has given BYWOM a great local casual vibe.” 

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