New coffee and scoop shop opens
By Kyle Vuille
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
“It’s been on the table for three and a half years,” Annette Nicholson, owner of Healthy Essentials said about her addition of a coffee and ice cream bar called Crav’ns.
Nicholson and her husband, Mark, have owned Healthy Essentials on Merrill Avenue for about five years. The Nicholsons also own the nearby Shoe Shack next door.
They originally wanted to open a coffee and scoop shop in that space, but the timing wasn’t right because they said they wanted to open it during the Bakken oil boom, but contractors were just too busy in that time.
Fast forward to this past September, and the Nicholsons did the construction themselves and hired contractors for the electricity and plumbing.
With no prior professional coffee barista experience, the Nicholsons and employee Bridget Sheer received on-site training in Whitefish from the Montana Coffee Traders.
However, Annette mentioned her years of making coffee at home when she bought her first espresso machine years ago and has shared cups of brew with family and friends throughout the years during get-togethers and card parties.
The Nicholsons recruited the help of Scheer, who does have experience working in a coffee shop.
“The training was an all-day affair, but because Bridget had previous experience, we weren’t there extensively,” Annette said.
The Nicholsons said they also did their research on what brand of coffee to sell at their new coffee shop.
They said they went to different roasters and coffee shops to look for the perfect coffee beans in their travels around Whitefish, Kalispell, Billings and Glacier Park before they settled on Montana Coffee Traders out of Whitefish.
When looking for ice cream to stock in the store, the Cascade brand of ice cream stood out. It is not available to retailers, but only to restaurants and scoop shops which Annette saw as an opportunity to stand out amongst other retailers offering ice cream.
The ice cream bar currently holds 16 of Cascade’s 52 available flavors. The Nicholsons plan to rotate flavors based on the season and popularity.
Annette and Bridget developed the most unique coffee drinks they offer at Crav’ns, highlighting drinks like the Affogato (espresso poured over ice cream) and Red Bull Zingers andBee Stings (cold coffee with honey, espresso and half and half). Crav’ns also offers an extensive choice of flavored syrups.
Annette and Mark emphasized the flavored popping pearls a customer can add to their smoothie or beverage.
“You can be drinking something pineapple then you get a pop of apple so it’s an explosion of flavors,” Mark said.
Another aspect that sets Crav’ns apart from the rest is their milkshakes. Milkshake can be made from any of their 16 Cascade ice cream flavors.
Annette also explained Crav’ns is offering homemade mini cheesecakes made by Sheer and their dessert menu will expand as time goes on. The Nicholsons and Bridget are also experimenting with a selection of paninis and soups that they will offer in the coming months.
Despite, the irony in “Healthy Essentials” selling ice cream and desserts, Annette said all the syrups and smoothies are made with juices with no artificial flavorings or high fructose syrup, but with natural cane sugar and flavors.
“It’s a balance,” Annette said. “Yes, I have supplements and yes, I have things that aren’t the best for you, but it’s fun. My store before was serious, but now it’s filled with laughter and fun,” she said.
Annette said Crav’ns is also taking a different approach to their open hours of business for now, being open later in the day than other coffee shops, but skipping the early crowd by opening at 10 a.m.
Crav’ns winter hours are Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Those hours are subject to change in the coming months, Annette noted.
Crav’ns is located at 116 S. Merrill across the street from the Attic. For more information, please call (406) 377-6777.
Reach Kyle Vuille at