After more than six months without a restaurant at the Helena Regional Airport, Smokejumper Station is now open for business.
The restaurant, which opened last week, has options for people to sit down or order at the counter for faster service. Owner Paul Mabie said he’s opening a market adjacent to the restaurant with daily soups and a sandwich and salad bar. A coffee and snack bar has been open for several months for travelers once they pass through security, but Mabie said he wants the restaurant to attract non-travelers as well.
While the restaurant should have steady business as the only food option in the airport, Mabie said he expects a lot of his business to be non-travelers. Boeing is close by and several government buildings are on the airport complex. During his first week in business, Mabie had tables filled with firefighters and people from the National Guard.
“There’s a lot of hidden business here,” he said.
Mabie has 20 years in the hospitality industry and has worked at the ticket counter for SkyWest Airlines. His chef moved from Livingston and used to be the executive chef at Chico Hot Springs. He’s hired 30 mostly part-time people and expects to hire more once the market opens and the restaurant starts catering for the 7,000-square-foot meeting space at the airport.
Since the former airport restaurant Captain Jack’s closed, Mabie has renovated the entire space and developed a menu to appeal to everyone since it’s the only option at the airport.
“We really gave the entire place a face-lift,” he said.
The menu features salads, burgers, sandwiches and burritos and will eventually have several Thai and Vietnamese options as well.
Mabie is incorporating as many Montana-made products as possible. Local and organic chicken will come from Montana and the grass-fed beef comes from a ranch in Wilsall. The coffee is from Kalispell and the tea from Big Timber. The airport owns a unique liquor license which allows people to get beer, wine and spirits at the restaurant and to go.
Smokejumper Station starts serving breakfast at 5 a.m. and is open until 8 p.m. seven days a week. It will eventually stay open until 11 p.m.