ST. IGNATIUS — Allard’s Stage Stop in St. Ignatius once welcomed tourists to town with its old-fashioned storefronts but the vibrancy of the complex faded when former owner Doug Allard passed away in 2009.
That was until two years ago when a couple of St. Ignatius locals purchased the property and vowed to bring it back to life. Billboards boast of Allard’s Stage Stop up and down US Highway 93. It’s a business that’s seen as many peaks and valleys as the mountains that surround it.
“We both being longtime St. Ignatius businessman had watched this, and we had seen it in its heyday, it was a beautiful building and complex, and how it succeeded, and then we watched it go downhill until the fact that it had been closed for a year and a half to two years when we got it,” Allard’s Stage Stop co-owner Stuart Morton.
For co-owners and longtime friends Don Coffman and Stuart Morton, acquiring Allard’s Stage Stop was more than just a business transaction -- it was an opportunity to bring something special to their hometown.
“And you'll see the pictures that it was, and the pictures it is now and, and you'll see changes in the next three years because it's a five-year plan, and we haven't altered from it, even through the pandemic we held the course, and when we intend to make this what it was,” Morton said.
For first-time visitors and longtime residents alike -- partners Morton and Coffman wanted something to travelers in their tracks -- whether to fill up on gas, grab a bison burger, or simply take in the view.
And that’s not where the lure stops, you’ll also find a six-cabin motel recently renovated, a candy store, jam factory, gift shop, and most recently a couple of critters out back.
“We fully intend to bring in some buffalo from the original Charles Allard herd from the 1800s. Some descendants that we should have in the next 24 months here -- and we're gonna grow from the descendants of the Charles Allard buffalo herd,” Morton explained.
Livestock, lodging, and manual labor -- taking on Allard’s Stage Stop has become a full-time job for this duo and their team of friends and family. It’d sure be easier to sit back and leave the work to somebody else but when you’re talking to lifelong Montanans, that’s not even on the list of interview questions.
“We were both born and raised here and we’re not going anywhere,” Morton said. “And we're not young anymore but we still think we've got plenty of time to, to create things, and to make things work.”
The Three Chief's Cultural Center, formerly known as the People's Center, has also moved onto the complex. Morton says they feel extremely lucky to be sharing the space.
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