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Emerging American Neighborhoods

Downtown Bozeman

In a city where the Great Outdoors takes center stage, a clichéd image of Montana is being replaced by a cosmopolitan edge.
By Lynn Donaldson

The Scene A population boom (along with a steadily advancing army of strip malls) necessitated an additional interstate exit in the greater Bozeman area. Yet downtown (nicknamed Boze-Angeles) has managed to retain an authentically bohemian vibe. At the heart of the city, new residential buildings are springing up on abandoned lots, and empty warehouses have been converted into design showrooms.

The Backstory After the 1992 release of A River Runs Through It, urban exiles by the Humveeful began migrating to the Gallatin Valley in search of the lodgepole-pine lifestyle. Recently, funky restaurants and shops have supplanted that faux-West utopia. Now there's not a chain saw-carved trout in sight.

Local Fauna On Saturday mornings, world-class climbers, Sierra Club activists, film industry tycoons, and the occasional cowboy can be seen strolling Main Street before hitting the hiking trails.

The Epicenter Labrador retrievers and baby-joggers are always parked in front of the LEAF & BEAN (35 W. Main St.; 406/587-1580), a coffee and tea house owned in the early nineties by onetime resident Glenn Close.

Restaurants STARKY'S AUTHENTIC DELICATESSEN 229 E. Main St.; 406/556-1111; lunch for two $16. American Wildlands guides and businessmen in buttoned-up suits crowd the booths in this lunch spot. Take a window seat and order a pungent baked-salami sandwich. SAVORY OLIVE 105 W. Main St.; 406/586-8320; dinner for two $65. An Art Deco boîte tucked inside the historic Baxter Hotel, the Olive emphasizes sustainably raised meats.

Shopping RO SHAM BO 17 S. Tracy Ave.; 406/582-7584. Owners Priscilla Foster and Sue Fleming sell Himalayan wrapping paper and Montana-made, hand-stitched note cards. The result is a stationery store as rich as a gourmet bonbon. SHOEFLY 315 E. Main St.; 406/586-8492. Michelle Stash fills her boutique with Flirty Donna & Toots handbags, John Fleuvog footwear, and Anna clogs in Bubblicious shades of pink. This season's designs are displayed on stainless-steel shelves and a quirky 1940's X-Ray Shoe Fitter.

After Dark PLONK 29 E. Main St.; 406/587-2170. A relaxed wine and tapas bar that has given a much needed jolt to the downtown nightlife scene. Trade tales with a fly-fishing guide or eavesdrop on that Discovery Channel crew seated by the soaring windows.

Gallery SHACK UP 109 N. Rouse Ave., No. 2; 406/586-6336. Art openings here have the glitz and energy of a Hollywood premiere. Owner Stephanie Sandston, a former art director of feature films, fills her auto garage turned design store with Modernist furniture and made-in-Montana functional art, such as glass sushi plates by architect-artist Richard Parrish.

The look on the street is Carrie Bradshaw in cowboy boots. No need to pack a blow-dryer; the Keep it Wild philosophy extends from nature to hair, which is also left untamed.


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