Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

Alpenstuble Bakery – an authentic German bakery in Stevensville

Where owner Silvia Allen combines her helping skills with her culinary skills

Silvia Allen, owner of Alpenstuble Bakery, also known as ‘The Bretzel Factory’ in Stevensville, prepares to put a batch of her four-seed bread in the oven. She was recently honored with a Small Businesswoman’s Award from the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority for being “courageous, determined, cheerful, smart, hardworking and talented.” Michael Howell photo.

Silvia Allen, owner of Alpenstuble Bakery in Stevensville, with her #1 employee, her daughter Melissa. Michael Howell photo.

By Michael Howell

If you ask Silvia Allen about the story behind her business, Alpenstuble Bakery, located at the Stevensville Junction on Highway 93, you are likely to hear a lot about her life, her youth growing up in Germany but vacationing every summer in Italy, and the dawning of a lifelong interest in the “restaurant and hospitality business,” as she puts it. Add to that the long years of apprenticeship in grandmother’s and mother’s kitchen, at first just watching closely, then actually helping and gradually absorbing a culinary tradition. And of course, you will hear about her daughter, Melissa, the “driving force” in her life and her work.

Although raising a disabled child is uniquely burdensome, Silvia considers Melissa the biggest blessing in her life. She has learned a lot from her daughter about love and about taking time and having lots and lots of patience.

Caring for her own daughter naturally led Silvia into doing broader social work outside the house. At one point, around 2005, while living in Oregon, she began to grow concerned about her daughter’s adult life.

“Having a child with disabilities and being an advocate for adults with disabilities, I began to wonder, what’s going to happen with Melissa when she’s done with high school,” said Silvia. That’s when she began to look in earnest for what was out there, for what the opportunities were for her daughter’s employment.

“Not much for people with disabilities,” said Silvia. She called that moment the planting of the seed, the first sighting of a plan for something like her bakery.

“It didn’t happen, but the idea was there,” she said. Instead, she got wrapped up in her volunteer work for the disabled and then got state employment as a Life Coach. Silvia said she came to Montana last summer looking for a place to move and start something. She said when she came through Stevensville, “it just felt right.”

She and Melissa started out by taking baked goods down to the Stevensville farmers market. It was a big hit, especially the ‘pie bundles’, something created by Melissa. According to Silvia, they saw a huge interest in the baked goods and heard people saying, “what we need here is a bakery.”

“So, I put the wheels in motion and six months later opened up my bakery with the intention of doing a vocational rehabilitation service for people with disabilities,” said Silvia. All but one of her employees to date have had some form of disability.

“Hopefully, I can make a difference,” said Silvia. “Also, I can add a little German authenticity to the menu.”

For Silvia, opening the bakery/restaurant was a double blessing. Not only does she get to help out her daughter and others with disabilities by giving them some employment, she gets a chance to do it by doing what she loves, cooking and baking.

Silvia started spending a lot of time in her mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens at an early age helping and learning all the time.

“I’m kind of an old-fashioned baker using the techniques I learned from my grandmother and mother,” said Silvia. “We were frugal Germans. We didn’t have a lot to go around and so I have that instilled in me as well.”

“Like the apple cake today,” she said. “It’s just something that’s been in my family for years. It was just something that my mom and grandmother could put together fairly quickly because we always had apples in the cellar and butter and flour in the pantry. That was a quick cake we could make on a Sunday afternoon for the four o’clock coffee hour.”

However, it was outside the kitchen, and even outside the country, that she was first bitten by the bug to be in the “restaurant and hospitality business,” as she calls it. Every summer her family would regularly vacation in Italy. She remembers desperately wanting some Italian ice cream and begging her dad to buy her some. He told her if she wanted money to buy ice cream she would have to earn it and gave her a few names. That’s how she first got into the restaurant business between the ages of ten and twelve.

“I made my first liras washing dishes and bussing tables,” said Silvia. “And I’ve got a scar on my chin to prove it. I had wooden shoes on and a tray of glasses and fell and cut my chin open,” she said, stroking her chin. “But that’s where the seed was laid for being in the restaurant and hospitality field.”

Silvia thinks it’s a great field for people with disabilities. She said the aim is to teach every new employee how to provide for themselves, not just on a daily basis, but also in any future employment by learning basic skills that can serve them in the future in any kind of job. Here they gain general skills in being hospitable and serving customers, they can learn simple skills in prep work like cutting vegetables and in baking. They can learn to use weights and measurements, some simple math and how to make change.

“You never stop learning,” said Silvia, “even a child with disabilities. If you have enough patience, there is a way to teach them what to do and how to use that for themselves.”

She said her own daughter Melissa was a good example.

“It gives me so much pleasure and makes me feel so good to be able to help somebody create something. I have something on the menu that Melissa created, we call it the ‘pie bundle.’ It’s an item people really enjoyed at the market. They were always asking for it,” she said.

“It’s those kinds of little things, I think, if I hadn’t taken the time and had the patience to do it and never gave up on her, then she wouldn’t have accomplished this. It’s the kind of thing that can give any disabled person, or some veteran in need of re-training for employment, a sense of hope from knowing they can accomplish something, that they are not just a lost person out there,” said Silvia. “We as people need to take care of them and give them the opportunity to feel good about themselves and feel like they have a purpose.”

“So I don’t know if that gives you the whole idea of why I have this bakery in this town,” she said.

The bakery has become well-known for its signature Bretzels (German-style pretzels) and cheese sticks. You can get a real German Chocolate Cake, not the kind most Americans think of, created in 1852 by a man named Samuel German, who developed baker’s chocolate, but an authentic German chocolate cake, without the pecans, a bit fluffier and layered in butter cream or custard cream by choice. You can also get an authentic Black Forest Cake. There’s also the German Cheesecake which is lighter than the usual American style, without as much cream cheese. There are Plunders, a German kind of cinnamon roll, and baked Danish.

Nothing is fried at the Alpenstuble Bakery. Even the meat is baked. Silvia gets her meat from a German butcher, who makes traditional German cuts and processes it in traditional fashion with equipment brought over from Germany. According to Silvia, the Smoked Black Forest Ham she uses is “about as authentic as you can get.”

Soups and sandwiches are available for lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinners are now served every other Saturday evening. The next dinner on January 27 features Goulash in a Cannonball (bread bowl).  The Goulash is made with pork and beef that has been marinated for at least two days.

Silvia also makes a Sauerbraten, a beef shank marinated in wine, vinegar, spices and herbs in a rotisserie for two to three days.

Alpenstuble is located at 3920 Hwy 93 North. The phone number is 777-9825.

There are no comments yet. Be the first and leave a response!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?