Steve and Vicky Nordahl opened Lone Peak Brewery and Taphouse in October 2007 after moving to Big Sky in 2003 to start a family and open a business. Steve is a formally educated brewer who opened his first brewery in Maryland in 1992. The Nordahls opened their brewpub in Big Sky because it was the largest ski town in the U.S. without a brewery and Montana was their favorite state in the country.
Between the brewery and taphouse, they have 10 full time, year-round employees, although that number more than triples during the peak tourist seasons. The taphouse has a full bar to complement the house-made beers and the restaurant has an extensive menu of classic pub fare and they host special food events such as crab and lobster feasts.
As part of this ongoing series, Steve Nordahl shared his thoughts about what it takes to make it as a small business owner in Big Sky.
Explore Big Sky: What has been the key to your success?
Steve Nordahl: Sacrifice, hard work and long hours!
EBS: Do you remember your first customer or first sale?
S.N.: Yes, still have the $1 bill from my first sale and it’s signed and framed.
EBS: What are the biggest obstacles to operating a small business in Big Sky?
S.N.: In 2019, finding and retaining employees with the affordable housing crisis here.
EBS: What are challenges of running a brewery of which most people aren’t aware?
S.N.: It’s a very labor-intensive process to brew beer.
EBS: How has the business landscape changed since you started out?
S.N.: There are three times as many restaurants and bars in Big Sky then when we started out in 2007.
EBS: What is it about Big Sky that compels you to stick it out through the hard times?
S.N.: It’s our home and we’re raising our two daughters here.
EBS: What is one of the most memorable moments you have had as a resident/business owner in Big Sky?
S.N.: It isn’t just one moment that’s memorable, but rather all of the community support we’ve had since opening 11 years ago.
EBS: What was a business idea that didn’t work?
S.N.: We’ve tried Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinner buffets that were not very successful.
EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
S.N.: It’s not twice as hard to do twice as good of a job.
EBS: What advice would you give to small business owners just starting out in Big Sky?
S.N.: Own your business’s property, don’t rent it.
EBS: Where do you see your business in 10 years?
S.N.: [Laughs out loud] I’m never sure where I see our business next year, let alone 10 years from now. Ten years into the future is not in my vision.
EBS: Where do you see Big Sky in 20 years?
S.N.: Hmm, I really hope it doesn’t look like Aspen does now, 20 years from now.