Two years after Marissa Keenan opened her first Sweet Peaks ice cream location in Whitefish, she decided to take her cold treats south.
“We really believe in Kalispell’s downtown,” Marissa said. “We wanted to be a part of it. Downtown has a sense of identity.”
Marissa, who first started making ice cream with her husband, Sam, for friends and family, said they decided to get into the ice cream business because she wanted to contribute something to the community.
“We wanted to start something ourselves,” she said. “We felt that entrepreneurial spirit.”
In 2010, the Keenans opened up shop a few blocks away from their Whitefish home. They started with 10 to 12 flavors and could hardly keep their product stocked.
“We ran out all the time. We couldn’t make it fast enough. We had a night shift that was just me and Sam,” she said. “We were met with so much community support, and we soon realized we were getting customers from other places, like Kalispell.”
So when the perfect location in downtown Kalispell went on the market, the Keenans jumped on the opportunity to open a second year-round store. The building, on the corner of Fourth and Main Streets, has a roof deck and wide, sunny front windows. It’s the perfect place to eat ice cream.
“And what’s happier than ice cream?” Marissa said.
Nothing brings a community together like a place to sit and enjoy a salted caramel cone, one of Sweet Peak’s most popular flavors, Marissa said.
In the warmer months, bicycles and strollers line up around the store and customers lounge on the deck enjoying summer flavors. People bring their children, often for their first taste of ice cream, and their dogs, who chow down special doggy flavors like beef.
The walkability and accessibility of downtown Kalispell is important to Marissa. She believes Main Street is the cultural and emotional core of the community. People come to Sweet Peaks to spend time together, and all it takes is a quick bike ride or a short walk.
“We truly believe in the downtown environment—that’s the reason we wouldn’t open in a strip mall. Nobody rides their bike to Cosco. But in downtown Kalispell, there are neighborhoods all around,” she said. “Kalispell is a really family-oriented, hardworking outdoor community.”
Marissa said she feels that spirit everywhere, even in which flavors Kalispell residents prefer.
“The classic, tried and true flavors sell best in Kalispell,” she said. “Tradition is important here. It’s ingrained in the core.”