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Keeping Alive A Neighborhood Tradition: The Buttercup Market And Café
Montana Senior News, February/March 2015
Molly Galusha is indisputably a woman who honors history. Chat with her over a cup of tea at her Buttercup Market and Café, and you will discover for yourself just how dedicated she is to preserving her Montana heritage.

Take the name of her café-market, for instance. While fans of the film, The Princess Bride, will recognize the name Buttercup as one of the movie’s lead characters, it also happens to be the unusual name of Molly’s grandmother. Jaundiced at birth—hence the moniker—Buttercup was born on a Helena Valley farm in the Montana Territory a year before statehood.

Equally adept at storytelling, preserving garden bounty, or feeding a crew of hired men, Buttercup significantly influenced Molly during her formative years. Naming the business after her was one apropos way Molly could pay tribute to her role-model grandmother.

“Buttercup was a major force in my life for values. She was joyful, optimistic, practical, and never wasted anything,” recounts Molly. “She was a locavore by necessity not fashion. Plus she was a phenomenal cook. She learned from the wives of senators and the county extension service and taught me and my sisters to cook. We understood through her example that serving healthy local food was a way of being happy and grateful together.”

When chili, tomato soup, biscuits, or sour-cream chocolate cookies appear on the café menu, a bit of Buttercup’s legacy lives on today. Relying as much as possible on local ingredients for cooking and baking is another family legacy Molly embodies at her cafe.

“We use Montana oil, butter, flour, eggs, and milk in our recipes. Everything we serve in the café is made from scratch. If you have good ingredients,” explains Molly, “you can’t go wrong as long as you don’t try to do too much with them. The best way to serve and nurture others is to offer good healthy food. That’s our goal; a very simple mission.”

As you might expect, vegetarians, vegans, and those following gluten-free diets find some tempting choices here. But so do carnivores for that matter. All totaled, Molly stocks the café pantry and grocery-store shelves with items from 45 regional and local Montana food producers.

Aside from regional edibles, the store also carries handcrafted pottery, soap and cards along with books penned by Montanans. And since the arts are important to Molly, she provides gallery space on the walls so area painters and photographers can display and sell their creations.

“Although my aunt was Archie Bray’s daughter, the people in my family are not artists,” confesses Molly, whose great-grandfather was a freight operator between Fort Benton and Virginia City. “But we do actively support the arts however we can.”

Anyone familiar with the Helen Avenue block near the university where the café-market sits will likely recognize the structure Molly chose to house her business. For over 25 years it was home to Freddy’s Feed and Read, a Missoula institution beloved by Molly and scores of other Missoulians. Known for its welcoming atmosphere along with its roster of Big Sky authored books, organic groceries, and deli-style fare, Freddy’s was sorely missed after its doors closed.

“Several businesses moved in after Freddy’s but failed. I live three blocks’ away and thought, I can do better than them. I may not do more than break even but I’m not going to fail,” recalls Molly, who felt compelled to carry on this neighborhood tradition. “I have always loved this building. It was built 100 years ago as a market and a family lived on the top floor. From the beginning, it has been an important business hub for the university.”

During and since start-up, Molly has drawn on many of the life skills she acquired in raising her family and in supporting various community non-profits. Everything from her cooking talents to her abilities as a seamstress and organizer for numerous causes has been put to work.

Not surprisingly, the neighborhood welcomed this University of Montana graduate and her vision for the landmark building. Perhaps, she feels, because she was a known quantity having lived in the neighborhood for some 25 years. Perhaps because she has put so much of her heart into it.

 “This business is about a building and the spirit of the building that serves the neighborhood. It’s not about a café,” observes Molly. “For me, working here is like a party every day. It’s a good place for social interaction and for people of widely differing ages to connect.”

When customers express their gratitude to her for the café-market being a part of their world, it just makes her day all the brighter. Incidentally, that gratitude extends beyond the food and gift items she sells. Molly has also made available one spacious room—free of charge—for community gatherings. Everyone from knitters to bridge players to the university’s German and Russian clubs has tapped into that generosity.

“I love Missoula values and pay my dues to live here. At the heart of it, the city has great progressive values in caring for one another physically and spiritually,” she says. “It has such a can-do attitude. You can accomplish anything here.”
When you next visit, take a moment to look at the historic Galusha family photos hanging in the café. And while you are at it, be sure to say a special thank you to Buttercup.
The Buttercup Market and Café is open daily at 1221 Helen Avenue. For more information, call 406-541-1221 or visit