The Mission General Store (St. Ignatius, Montana Amish)

Making sandwiches in the deli at Mission General Store. Photo by Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake

The St. Ignatius, Montana Amish community is far enough off the beaten path that I’d guess most of us will not make it there.

But if you do, one place to visit is the Amish-run Mission General Store, run by Ruth Bontrager and her husband. From the Daily Inter Lake:

Located at the center of a 125-member Amish community outside of St. Ignatius, the Mission General Store may be off the beaten track, but people find it and keep coming back. Business is brisk, especially during the summer months when Bontrager and her husband Delbert bump up the staff to six or eight workers.

While the store serves the Mission Valley Amish community, it also draws shoppers from the greater St. Ignatius area and passersby who see the sign on U.S. 93.

Mission General Store was started as a discount grocery by the Bontragers in 2003, but they quickly added a large deli with the signature Troyer products and the popular Montana-made Wilcoxson ice cream. The store also has a large selection of bulk and discounted foods that have passed their “best by” purchase dates.

“We check and make sure the products are good,” she assured.

“We try to get a lot of unique items,” she added, listing products such as Amish-made noodles, soup mixes, pickled mushrooms and peach salsa. Some products carry the Mission General Store name as a private label, but are made by Amish communities in Ohio.

In addition to their assortment of foods, the store also carries fabrics, quilt supplies, furniture, clocks and other products.

St. Ignatius Amish

St. Ignatius is a small community of just one church district, though Amish have lived here since 1997.

A look at the latest Raber’s Almanac shows it is on the larger side as far as church leadership however, with four ministers in addition to a bishop and deacon residing in the settlement (two-three ministers is more common for Amish churches).

The community holds an annual auction on the weekend following July 4th, to fund their parochial school. They have also held an auction in the past to support the local ambulance service.

Few Amish communities have views like this. Photo by Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake

Montana as a state has had an Amish presence since the 1970s, but still a relatively low Amish population. We discussed why that might be here, in a piece on the state’s oldest community, at Rexford (West Kootenai). Here’s the relevant bit from that piece:

Rexford seems to be a “revolving door” Amish community.  One writer observes that “Many a person has been attracted to the area by visions of hunting, fishing, or camping in Montana’s great outdoors, sort of like taking a year-round vacation among the mountains.” However, Rexford is “not a farmer’s paradise”, maintaining a steady income can be hard, the cost of living is probably higher, and eventually “cabin fever and homesickness for the home folks over a thousand miles away” leads many families to move elsewhere.  Retired couples seem to stay around longest.

We might presume that something similar applies to St. Ignatius, given its remoteness and natural beauty. The article mentions that many of the local Amish own their own businesses, something that seems more common in places where agricultural conditions are not so good (Colorado is another example).

In any case, if you happen to be in the area and find yourself with a hankering for Carolina Reaper cheddar cheese, Hoppin’ Frog jam, or just feel like plopping down in an Amish-made rocking chair, Mission General Store should have you covered.

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    1. Emily

      BIG sky country

      It never ceases to amaze me just how big distances get when you hit the western states, as opposed to the Midwest. I live in far western North Dakota, and I’m still ~630 miles from St. Ignatius and Rexford. I’d still love to visit one day, but it won’t be an impulse trip on a weekend. 🙂

      1. Good point Emily. I’ve never lived there, but from my limited visits West (really one main visit), everything scales up. 630 miles is like over 1.5 times the distance it takes me to go from NC to Lancaster County, going through several states and passing by several other Amish communities on the way 🙂

    2. Tammy Richards

      Wonderful store

      We go to this store quite a bit in the summer. Everyone is so friendly! There is a wonderful selection of different items. They added a large produce room not too long ago. We love getting potatoes there – $9.99 for a 50 lb bag. And the potatoes are huge! The Mission Mountains are the perfect beautiful backdrop. If you ever get the opportunity to visit, you will not regret it.

      1. Tammy, neat to hear from someone who’s been there!

    3. Dan Gadd

      DIVINE Providence moves west!

      Even though the revolving door might be a factor in the Amish presence its always a delight to meet the new families with their hopes & dreams. 😉 Very nice article indeed. 😉

    4. Harriet

      Mission General Store

      This is definitely my type of store!!! It’s just a good thing I live so far away from it. Just thinking about it makes me drool!!! Food, baked goods, quilting material…oh my! Thanks for the article, Erik.

      1. My pleasure Harriet. Yes I would love to have a place like this next door. Though usually I find that the things in our backyard we tend to take for granted, since we can visit them anytime in theory…I’ve noticed this anyway as far as local attractions where I live, which I hardly ever visit. For a similar reason I am kind of glad I didn’t grow up next to an Amish community 🙂

    5. OldKat

      St. Ignatius, Montana

      Ironically, I had planned to go to St. Ignatius, Montana this July for a horsemanship clinic put on by Doug “Doc” Hammill & his wife, Cathy. I had also planned to go to Clare, Michigan the last weekend of June.

      However, I have decided to retire effective July 2nd, and have a bunch of things that are up in the air and which will need to be settled about that time. So I won’t be making either this year. (Insert “sad” smiley face here!)

      For those that might be interested in either; and/or

      1. OldKat

        Ooops! Forgot something

        In the post above I gave the URL for an event in Clare, Michigan this June, but failed to mention what the event is! Past my bedtime I guess.

        It is Horse Progress Days 2018, or, as I like to call it; The Amish World’s Fair. Quite an event to see. If you are going to be in that part of Michigan on the 29th or 30th of June I highly recommend that you stop by and take it all in.

    6. Karen rye

      Amish love 2020

      I visited this store just because I love and respect thier beliefs and lifestyle. I travel THE US and have been to many Amish communities, study and read about them. We all can learn especially th8s year where the pandemic has hurt so many people. Divided and torn apart. Hurt small and big businesses. This store had a SIGN on thier door that read how they are not afraid of this or past virus because if thier belief in Jesus Christ. I wish I had taken a picture but did not have a camera with me. Please patronize this and other Amish stores or home businesses for this is thier livelihood.

    7. Roxanne Fisher-Chance

      Re:. Upcoming July Auction

      I have been an independent vendor
      at both the Rexford and Libby auctions,
      and was wondering if you are accepting
      independent vendors at your upcoming
      July auction.