Wanting to be closer to family in the region, Rick and Carol Keats found a home in Choteau they love and now have a business that others are loving.
The couple opened Teton River Baking, a specialty baking business, out of their home at 15 Fifth Ave. N.E., last November.
They sell a variety of breads, loaf and free form as well as artisan breads and specialty breads like chocolate braids. “We do a lot of our recipes whole wheat as we feel it is healthier than other flours,” Rick said. “We offer several different cinnamon-type rolls with a variety of icings and toppings”.
Scones are one of their best sellers. “We work hard at doing high-end scones, like pumpkin, cranberry pecan, ginger apricot and chocolate hazelnut,” he added.
Unlike a traditional business, Teton River Baking doesn’t have a store front. They operate under the guidelines of the state’s Cottage Food Industry law. This allows individuals to bake and sell out of their own homes as an expansion of the Farmers Market Law. The licensing and guidelines require approval of recipes, labels and allergens on all the products. They are licensed and insured in the state and also licensed to operate their business in Choteau. The goods can be sold directly to individuals and cannot be resold.
They bake once a week, normally Tuesdays, with the scheduled pick-up time between 4:30 and 6 p.m.
Rick grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Carol, in a fourth-generation ranch family on the Certain Creek Ranch in the Sweetgrass Hills next to the Canadian border.
Rick worked for a time in the oil fields in southeast Montana then began a career in law enforcement in Wyoming. He has a degree in police science. Carol, after graduating from Sunburst High School, became a certified lab technician and worked at the Columbus Hospital in Great Falls. She moved back to Sunburst and began a career in the U.S. Postal Service spanning a time of 31 years. She retired from the Choteau post office on April 28.
The couple operated Yellowstone YearRound Adventures, a van tour service out of Gardiner, until 2010. They provided meals for their clients. “All of the baked goods were from scratch and the meals went with us into the field with our clients,” Rick said. “Our clients loved the food, it was homemade, hot and from scratch.”
Carol was the baker when they operated the tour service as well as being able to cater meals for large numbers of people. She began to teach Rick the tricks of the trade. Over time Rick kept learning and trying new baking ideas and Carol kept helping him improve his techniques.
“I started enjoying baking and the challenge of providing a product worthy of selling,” Rick said. “The result was the business as it now is today.”
Rick does most of the baking and packaging and Carol helps when she can. Carol is also the one who takes care of most of the social media aspects of the business.
Since opening they have developed a loyal following and work hard at providing a quality product for them. The business is to be growing and new clients are contacting them, Rick said. “We greatly appreciate that and are excited to have the chance to share our quality products with them.”
“Our clients are, for the most part, we would say in their 40s on up to senior citizens,” Rick said. “They seem to greatly enjoy the homemade products and having the chance to try and enjoy them.”
Rick and Carol are working on a second round of recipes to be submitted to the state for approval and adding them to their license. “We are constantly testing new recipes to find ones we think customers will like,” Rick said.
The couple’s short-term and long-term goals pretty much match. They want to continue to grow their client base and offer quality products to as many people so they have the chance to enjoy homemade goods right in their neighborhood.
Those interested can watch for bake days and ordering options on the Facebook page Teton River Baking or contact the bakers by phone at 403-9133.