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Paradise Valley landmark struggles to stay afloat

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 31 2012 09:42:05 AM MST
LIVINGSTON, Mont. -

The Pine Creek Lodge and Café has been a Paradise Valley landmark for decades. It's a restaurant, music venue and for those who love it, a community gathering place.

"This is where I came to eat, to listen to music and meet with friends so, I didn't know anything about the business so, I bought it," says Pine Creek Café and Lodge owner Mark Hartwig.

When Mark Hartwig bought the Pine Creek Lodge and Café this year, it was already in financial trouble.

"Had I known anything about the business I wouldn't have bought it," says Hartwig.

Months later, Hartwig's money problems weren't going away. But things quickly turned from bad to worse at the end of August.

"We're standing at the north of it, we saw a wall of flames come across the north side of it and I thought it was gone and so did a lot of other people," says Hartwig.

Four months ago, the Pine Creek Lodge and Café narrowly escaped the flames of the Pine Creek Fire. Now, folks with the place say the aftermath of the blaze threatens to shut its doors.

Joanne Gardner and Scott Boehler are book musicians at the Pine Creek Café and perform in bands that play there.

"People from all over the country were devastated by the loss of Pine Creek and I think that the news that it didn't burn, which came some days later, didn't get as widely spread," explains Gardner.

Hartwig says after the fire, their biggest obstacle was making sure the public knew they were still open.

"Was there ever a point when you thought you wouldn't be able to stay open?" we asked.

"Yeah, about November. I was pretty sure because I was pumping in a substantial amount of money in every month," replied Hartwig.

Yet, with a new management crew, price negotiations with some bands and more bands coming in, things are looking up for Hartwig.

"It's starting. We're not there yet, but we're turning the corner," says Hartwig.

It's music to the ears of those who treasure the Pine Creek Lodge and Café.

"Being a musician and playing at Pine Creek is just about the best of all worlds," says Boehler.

Hartwig says if they can get to a point where they're breaking even, they'll stay open.

Folks with the Pine Creek Café say they have a number of events planned for the winter like their weekly writer reading nights and big plans for the summer, like the return of the March Fourth Marching band.

For more information, you can visit their website.