Longtime family business, Chalet Market, changes hands


Julie and Ryan Johnson are the new owners of the Chalet Market, 327 S. 24th St. W.

The Chalet Market on 24th Street West, a deli and gift shop known for its large selection of made-in-Montana products and holiday gift baskets, has changed hands after 36 years.

Dean and Callie Cromwell are retiring from the business that Dean’s family started in 1981, having sold it to another couple, Ryan and Julie Johnson.

Ryan Johnson grew up just a few blocks away, in the Gorham Park neighborhood.

“I can almost see my parents’ house from the back office,” he said.

Part of what has made the Chalet Market successful for so many years is consistency.

Back in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Johnson said, “my dad had a computer business on Grand and he would order lunch (from the market) for everyone when they had meetings. They still have the same sandwich he ordered then — the Italian.”

Johnson said he left Billings 20 years ago to attend graphic design school in Portland, Ore., where he met Julie, a native of Banks, Ore., a small farming community west of Portland. Ryan and Julie did seasonal work for many years, working in restaurants and traveling and skiing in the off months.

Later, as they settled down to other work, they still supplemented their income by working in restaurants and catering. In Fort Collins, Colo., where they lived most recently, Ryan worked for a sign shop and Julie worked in the financial sector.

After they adopted a daughter, they decided they wanted to move to Billings to be closer to family.

“I looked up businesses for sale in Billings and what do you know? The Chalet Market popped up,” Ryan Johnson said.

With financing from Yellowstone Bank and the Montana and Idaho Community Development Corp., a nonprofit that specializes in helping “nearly bankable” businesses and entrepreneurs, the Johnsons closed on the market on Oct. 17, four days after they moved here from Colorado.

They’ve been at the market ever since.

“We kind of missed working together,” Johnson said. “That’s why this is so exciting.”

Located at 327 S. 24th St. W., just north of West High School, Chalet Market has a fairly large menu for such a small deli, featuring croissant sandwiches, subs, wraps, deli sandwiches, soups, salads and sweets.

The gift shop offers food and non-food items, and a wide range of gift boxes full of Montana-made treats. Chalet Market also has a kiosk at Rimrock Mall, which just opened for the Christmas season on Monday. The market employs seven people, Johnson said, while another couple runs the kiosk with some other part-time help.

The Johnsons will also do catering out of the market.

Given their experience in the food industry, Johnson said one thing has surprised him about the Chalet Market: “How busy a little sandwich shop can be.”

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