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A Rebirth for the Knead Cafe
Kalispell mainstay reopens in the Fifth and Main building
Mike McFeely, left, prepares a wrap for a customer while working in the kitchen with his wife, Sarah McFeely, at The Knead Cafe’s new location in Kalispell. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
Baking bread is a study in transformation: various ingredients create dough, which is kneaded and formed into loaves and then placed in the oven for the final conversion. When it comes to food, evolution and change are necessary.

The Knead Café is no exception to evolution. A mainstay in the valley’s dining scene for 15 years, the Knead closed down in 2010, and has now reopened in the Fifth and Main building in Kalispell.

The Knead originally started in 1995 as part of Montana Coffee Traders, owner Mike McFeely said. By 1999, it had outgrown the space, and McFeely and his business partners bought the building on Second Avenue West that would remain the Knead’s home until it shut down in 2010.
By the time the end had come for that iteration of the restaurant, McFeely said they had hoped to sell the business, but their timing matched up right along with the recession.

“Commercial real estate was dead,” McFeely said.

Eventually, the building sold and the business was dissolved. McFeely and his wife Sarah focused on her business, Cottage Gardens, during the summers, and he worked in construction along with starting a lawn mowing business to complement Sarah’s garden design, installation and maintenance business.

But he retained ownership of the name of his former restaurant, Mike said.

“I knew someday I’d reopen again,” he said.

Opportunity presented itself last November, when both Sarah and Mike were on down time from their summer businesses and Sarah’s mother, Vivienne Montague, announced that she wanted to retire from running her own restaurant, Vivienne’s Fifth Street Café in Kalispell.

Vivienne’s had been in business for 16 years, carving out its place as a tearoom and sandwich shop. Mike and Sarah asked her mother about the lease and decided to take over the space on Fifth Street and Main Street, next door to the Devonshire building.

“We decided the Knead Café had a lot of marketability because it had been around for 15 years,” Mike said.

The couple redid the kitchen, upgrading the appliances to allow for more production than the setup Vivienne had in place, and they reworked the interior to fit their restaurant’s persona.

While Sarah and Mike initially questioned the restaurant’s location, which is slightly off the beaten path, they decided to test it out, opening the new Knead Café on Jan. 10.

Cinnamon, front, and strawberry cream scones are seen on display plates at The Knead Cafe in Kalispell. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

It’s been a labor of love and family, they said, with Sarah, Mike, Sarah’s brother Adam and her niece all working to keep the restaurant moving. Vivienne also makes her appearances, to help with the food or the dishes, wherever she’s needed.

“She comes in and still helps us with some of the baking,” Sarah said of her mother.

If she’s not helping out, she’s having tea with her friends, Mike said. Vivienne said she’s enjoyed retirement, but has trouble adjusting to not working because she’s worked her whole life.

But she enjoys the food and the atmosphere at the Knead, and thinks it was a good move for her family.

“It all worked out very well,” Vivienne said.

And so far, the restaurant is bringing in customers despite very little advertising. Breakfast time is especially busy, followed by a lull from about noon to 1 p.m., and then a late lunch rush.

They’re still trying to find their customers’ rhythms, Mike and Sarah said, but lately they’ve seen a resurgence of familiar faces from the days at the former Knead Café.

“A lot of my old customers are coming back,” Mike said.

Liz Riley writes the lunch specials on a chalkboard near the end of the breakfast rush at The Knead Cafe in Kalispell. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

The menu at the Knead includes plenty of options for vegetarians, vegans, those who prefer or need gluten-free food, and many of the dishes avoid major food allergens, the couple said, and they use as much local food as possible.

They serve breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday, and intend on adding a Sunday brunch. Mike also said they are considering an expansion within the building, increasing their seating capacity from 40 to 60 and possibly adding a beer and wine license.

But while they figure out where the business may be headed in the future, Mike and Sarah are content to enjoy where it is now.

“It was a dream, and the dream is reemerging,” Mike said. “And I think it’s better than ever.”

For more information on The Knead Café, visit www.thekneadcafe.com.
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