Condon store rebuilt after fire is full of surprises

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  • the Mission Mountain Mercantile looks at its namesake mountain range toward the west.

  • 1

    Owners Grace Siloti and Len Kobylenski pose behind the Mission Mountain Mercantile on Sept. 13. The building was destroyed in a fire in 2016 and reopened in April 2018.

  • 2

    Interior of the Mission Mountain Mercantile which prefers to stock specialty items from unexpected sources.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 3

    The Mission Mountain Mercantile features an extensive meat department.

  • 4

    According to Grace Siloti these sauces by Swan River Valley are among the products they can't seem to keep on the shelves because the sell so well.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 5

    Interior of the Mission Mountain Mercantile which prefers to stock specialty items from unexpected sources.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 6

    The patio behind the Mission Mountain Mercantile offers seating next to owner Grace Siloti’s lavender garden.

  • 7

    The light-filled design of the Mission Mountain Mercantile showcases the store’s array of specialty products. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 8

    Owner of the Mission Mountain Mercantile, Len Kobylenski said this view from the back of the store is the reason for the name of the store on Highway 83 between Bigfork and Seeley.Grace Siloti, left, and owner Len Kobylenski stand together in the field behind the Mission Mountain Mercantile on Friday, September 13. The building was destroyed in a fire in 2016 and reopened in April 2018.Interior of the Mission Mountain Mercantile which prefers to stock specialty items from unexpected sources.View of the patio behind the Mission Mountain Mercantile.Meat department at the Mission Mountain Mercantile.Automotive department at the Mission Mountain Mercantile.According to Grace Siloti these sauces by Swan River Valley are among the products they can't seem to keep on the shelves because the sell so well.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • the Mission Mountain Mercantile looks at its namesake mountain range toward the west.

  • 1

    Owners Grace Siloti and Len Kobylenski pose behind the Mission Mountain Mercantile on Sept. 13. The building was destroyed in a fire in 2016 and reopened in April 2018.

  • 2

    Interior of the Mission Mountain Mercantile which prefers to stock specialty items from unexpected sources.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 3

    The Mission Mountain Mercantile features an extensive meat department.

  • 4

    According to Grace Siloti these sauces by Swan River Valley are among the products they can't seem to keep on the shelves because the sell so well.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 5

    Interior of the Mission Mountain Mercantile which prefers to stock specialty items from unexpected sources.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 6

    The patio behind the Mission Mountain Mercantile offers seating next to owner Grace Siloti’s lavender garden.

  • 7

    The light-filled design of the Mission Mountain Mercantile showcases the store’s array of specialty products. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 8

    Owner of the Mission Mountain Mercantile, Len Kobylenski said this view from the back of the store is the reason for the name of the store on Highway 83 between Bigfork and Seeley.Grace Siloti, left, and owner Len Kobylenski stand together in the field behind the Mission Mountain Mercantile on Friday, September 13. The building was destroyed in a fire in 2016 and reopened in April 2018.Interior of the Mission Mountain Mercantile which prefers to stock specialty items from unexpected sources.View of the patio behind the Mission Mountain Mercantile.Meat department at the Mission Mountain Mercantile.Automotive department at the Mission Mountain Mercantile.According to Grace Siloti these sauces by Swan River Valley are among the products they can't seem to keep on the shelves because the sell so well.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Condon seems like an unlikely spot to find edamame hummus, but the rebuilt and revitalized Mission Mountains Mercantile carries specialty foods like this and much more.

After a fire destroyed Mission Mountains Mercantile on Montana 83 in 2016, owners Grace Siloti and Len Kobylenski rebuilt the store to bring unique and everyday goods to the rural community.

“It’s the only gas stop between Seeley Lake and Bigfork,” Kobylenski said, so he and Siloti take seriously their responsibility to meet the diverse needs of remote locals and hungry travelers. “People are always walking in and being surprised.”

Mission Mountains Mercantile supplies customers with gas station staples like fuel, snacks and a deli. But they also stock fresh produce, made-in- Montana gifts and a surprising selection of special groceries. Sriracha chocolate, balsamic pearls and yogurt-filled muffins are just a few of the unusual finds that can be purchased by mercantile visitors. “There’s always something new,” Kobylenski pointed out.

“We’re a mercantile, so we try to carry a little of everything,” Siloti explained, and Kobylenski said she works diligently with distributors to meet this goal.

“One only distributes from small mom and pop shops all throughout the U.S.,” Siloti said of one source who supplies specialty merchandise.

“I would say a huge amount [of the products] you can only get here,” Kobylenski estimated. “Thirty percent [of the merchandise] is really unique.”

But Mission Mountains Mercantile didn’t always have a reputation as a “little oasis.”

Kobylenski bought the “little store” in 1979 when it was known as the Buckhorn Camp. “It was 1,200 square feet, maybe” he remembered. For many years, it carried “really small grocery store items.”

Over the decades, Mission Mountains Mercantile grew into a Condon community institution. Siloti sais the glorified convenience store is “absolutely” the go-to grocery spot for the approximately 250 residents who live in the area.

All that was jeopardized when a fire destroyed the building in 2016.

“We think it was electrical,” Kobylenski explained. They discovered the blaze late on a spring night and watched it burn into the morning before the walls caved in.

“As the old store was burning, I told Len, ‘I know what our new store is going to look like,’” Siloti said. Kobylenski wasn’t so eager for his longtime business to rise from the ashes. After decades running the store, retirement seemed more appealing than rebuilding from the ground up.

“It was very difficult,” Kobylenski confessed. “Grace was really the driving force.”

The decision to rebuild the store stemmed largely from the owners’ understanding of their role as providers to the local population.

“It’s taken a whole year to get everything off the ground,” Siloti reported. She said the difference between the old building and the new one is “night and day.”

“Nothing is the same,” she said.

The new building, whose first anniversary was celebrated in April, features an airy, open design and enormous windows that look out onto the back patio, Siloti’s lavender garden and the owners’ horses grazing below the Mission Mountains.

“Making use of the Mission Mountains,” was a major part of Siloti’s vision for the new building.

The result makes the only gas station for miles also the most idyllic.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.

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