Polson, Montana is known for many things. It’s home to the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Flathead cherry crops, and the towering Mission Mountains. It’s also home to a locally owned food and beverage producer which crafts enough authentic Indian masala chai to fill 1.25 million cups in a year, and enough noodles for 20 million bowls of pasta.
Simply406 co-owner Amy Kellogg says the acquisition of the Tipu’s Chai and Country Pasta brands have allowed both businesses to grow and remain in Polson. Today, both product lines are shipped to retailers around the country and even a few spots around the globe.
“It is magical here,” Kellogg says of Polson. “We all know that the whole state is magical, and we all love our little corners of the state. Here in Polson, the fact you can go to the grocery store on a Sunday and see one of your teammates and ask what they’re having for dinner – that’s pretty neat.”
Tipu’s Chai and Country Pasta are two brands with deep Montana roots. Founded by Bipin Patel, Tipu’s first began filling teacups in Missoula, Mont. in 1997. His recipe is his grandmother’s authentic Indian chai – a bold and spicy blend unlike other commercially-packaged chai products. By 2007, Patel left the restaurant business to focus solely on producing and marketing chai.
Around that time, Kellogg and her husband began investing in Tipu’s and looking for ways to turn a liquid concentrate chai product into something more eco-friendly and easier to ship. That’s when the two had the opportunity to purchase Tipu’s and develop additional product lines – shifting from a bottled liquid chai into a boxed dry spice mix.
“It allows cafes to brew their own fresh concentrate, it saves space, and it’s easier to ship,” Kellogg explains. “Sometimes it can be hard in Montana to reduce your environmental footprint, but it was important to us to try.”
It’s that authentic and bold spice mix, that can be found in many Whole Foods Coffee Bars around the country. When you order a chai latte at Whole Foods, you may be being served a proudly Montana-made product.
“It was a turning point for our business,” Kellogg remembers. “We’ve always had strong distribution and strong fans, it’s a real thrill to hear customers talk about how much they love Tipu’s.”
Simply406, the umbrella of Tipu’s and Country Pasta, now has 25 employees. It was the general manager’s family who founded Country Pasta in Polson more than 25 years ago.
“When we went to meet the family to learn about [Country Pasta], it was more like them interviewing us. We felt that they wanted to make sure the business they had built was in good hands,” Kellogg says.
Kellogg says doing business in Montana has been an asset to the growing company. She says it’s less formal or corporate, which adds to their brand identity. Staff at the company don’t have voicemail because they simply answer their phones.
“Doing business in Montana allows us to grow in unique ways,” she says, “it allows us to be more nimble.”
For Kellogg and her husband, who moved here from the East Coast, the most important thing to them is keeping and expanding jobs in Polson.
“Part of the Montana Spirit is grit and hard-work,” says Kellogg. “At the same time, we value the work-life balance, which is what Montana is all about.”