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Local Food Matters

by Mary Rosewood

If you like made-in-Montana products (and who doesn’t?), you’ll be excited to explore LuLu’s Montana Market.There are shelves and counters and coolers overflowing with sweets, sauces, beverages, premade meals, ice cream, and more — not to mention countless crafts and works of art. All made by talented and creative people in Montana.


The shop opened on Father’s Day 2021, with 40 Montana food producers and craftspeople represented. Lexi DiPentino found them by hunting through the official Made in Montana website and announcing her search on social media. There are now more than 125 artists and businesses with things for sale.


When her mother passed away in 2020, Lexi said she wanted to invest her “inheritance into something I felt meaningful. So many cool things have come about in the store.”


Last year the Montana Chamber of Commerce Education Department held a three-day workshop in Livingston for teachers to learn a new curriculum introducing students to entrepreneurship. One event was held in LuLu’s Montana Market, where Lexi introduced several of the artisans she works with to chat about their businesses.


“The fact that my mom was a schoolteacher and I used my inheritance from her to open this place, it was just so amazing to have that happen,” Lexi said. “It was such a

blessing.”


The market started as a retail space for Montana products, but has now expanded to include sandwiches made on the premises with local food. The menu carefully highlights the local ingredients that are used, among them, bratwurst from B Bar Ranch in Big Timber and seasonal salsa from D&D West Greenhouses.


“We talk about the products and the people who make the products when people are checking out,” Lexi said. “We don’t just sell them their stuff. We say, this is so-and-so and these are their other products, this is something about them, so that people understand that’s a real human being who made what they’re buying.”


“Hands-down our most popular food” is Genuine Ice Cream, made in small batches in Bozeman, which includes a dairy-free option, toasted coconut. Store-made waffle cones round out your dessert experience. If you prefer something savory, the

“Dill-icious” Tuna Melt is another big winner.


The Lodge’s Larder and Ranchmade Charcuterie, both in Livingston, supply heat-and-serve meals that are vacuum-sealed so they can be taken camping or on the water. If you find yourself heading south without a meal, grab a to-go lunch bag.


But take your time looking around. I bet you’ll see things you’ve never heard of. I was intrigued by Montana Huckleberry Hot Sauce, made by Blind Hot Sauce in Columbia Falls. I was also surprised to find there are several options for buying bottled — even canned — Montana water.


Because the market is on the way to Yellowstone National Park, tourists often stop in and quickly discover what wonderful and delicious things are produced in Montana, and many are delighted to learn about huckleberries for the first time. Area outfitters also pick up meals for their clients.


The 2022 flood reduced tourist foot traffic by half, Lexi said, but the total has come back up as local shoppers come in for lunch and to browse.


“One girl came in with her grandma,” Lexi said, “and she was like, ‘Oh my gosh! These are my [other] grandma’s bracelets! This is so cool!’ It’s exciting.”


And in case you’re wondering, “LuLu” is a nickname for Lexi herself.


Stay updated on Facebook at “Lulu’s Montana Market” and on Instagram at lulusmontanamarket.


LuLu’s Montana Market

5237 US 89 S, Livingston

970-308-5528

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