First things first, fans of the Longbranch Saloon in Victor. The sign has been taken down by the new owners and is in a safe place. It will once again hang in a place of honor when the Victor landmark reopens according to new owners Renee and Paul Rakitin.
“We want to assure people that the sign is safe and that we will hang it up again,” said Renee.
The Longbranch Saloon, or just the Longbranch, is a landmark in Victor. Prior to becoming the bar, the building was the Shamrock Cafe. Perry and Chris Jasper bought the place 40 years ago.Through the years, this was the place to go for fun times in the Bitterroot. Live bands played every weekend, and even occasionally a super star or two would show up. There is even a country song written about it, “Too Much Fun” by Darryl Singleterry. (Of course the Stumble Inn, now Bailey’s Finish Line, is in the song too.)
The Longbranch has always been a place where people meet to visit with old friends, play shuffle board, pool, or simply have a quiet time with a beer. This was the atmosphere that Paul and Renee found when the moved here almost four years ago. They said their reception was cool at first but soon they found many friends.
The Jaspers had tried several times to sell the bar over the years but each time, the sale fell through. When the Rakitins decided to put an offer in, they held their breath until the papers were signed. “We just want to give it that good feeling again.”
The two met when they were teenagers. He was 18 and she was 15. They were friends for many years, doing their own thing, or going snowboarding. Renee was a seamstress in the Los Angeles area, doing tailoring, making costumes for the major industry in the area. She also worked in the hospitality and retail industries. But as sometimes happens with good friends, they fell in love and married in 2008. A daughter followed in 2009, and a son in 2011. Paul had become a medic in the Army during this time and served in Afghanistan. He left the Army in 2012.
He was, and is, an avid runner and sold high end running shoes and eventually opened up a shop. Then, he and Renee started having weekly runs and then beer runs. They said these were just groups of people who liked to run and then liked to have a beer after their runs. The shoe shop was getting busier and busier and taking up more and more room.
In 2016, they opened The Running Shop and Hops in Morgan Hill, California. Their business model, according to their website, was to have a gathering place where all feel welcome and connected. They also wanted to support other small businesses and breweries. They sold that business in November of 2020, and that helped them to purchase the Longbranch.
The running shoe business was getting more and more cut throat with Amazon and other big box stores cutting into the market. Paul was getting tired of battling and decided to close the shoe part of the business.
“It was a blessing, really. We turned that area into a large game room with all the games,” he said. “We made it family friendly and gave people something to do.”
The Ratikins will be using much the same business model in this business in Victor. They want a place where families can go, have good beer, food and just a great place to hang out.
But before they get to that point, they have a lot of work to do and they plan on doing most of the work themselves. The building is not up to code but was grandfathered in when Jasper owned it. The building will have to come down but Paul and Renee plan on reusing as much of the material as possible. They say it will be a slow, methodical process.
One of the large wooden pillars that is in the bar has been spoken for. A family approached Paul and wanted to know if they could have that particular pillar because that was where their dad sat when he was in the bar. Of course, they gave it to them.
Paul and Renee are hoping to have everything as locally sourced as possible. This is not only for the reconstruction but also for the glassware, tables and chairs, and of course the libations. The long bar will be retained as well as the shuffleboard. They have what they call a ‘realistic’ timeline. They hope to open in 2022.
“We want people to know what’s happening. We’ve heard some amazing stories and we hope to hear more. The local people are interested in keeping a piece of history going. We are one of the oldest businesses in the valley that has been owned by only one owner for 40 years.”
The Rakitins hope to keep everyone up to date on the Longbranch on their website www.thehopsmontana.com or email them at [email protected] . And don’t worry, the sign will be hung back up.