Mackenzie River Pizza new store construction

A crane lifts a gluelamb beam onto the Mackenzie River Pizza shell under construction on the north side of Alaska Road by I-90.

After doing business for 22 years on Main Street,  Belgrade’s Mackenzie River Pizza restaurant needs more room and is preparing to move elsewhere in the community.

Kurt McManis, who with his wife, Jenna, have owned and operated the local franchise for 6-1/2 years. He said on Wednesday that the new location will double the size of the restaurant. And, he said, Jenna McManis, who runs the business, plans to almost double the current staff size of 32 fulltime and part-time employees.

The new restaurant building is under construction just south of Interstate 90, on the north side of Alaska Road immediately east of Jackrabbit Lane. The McManises hope to have the restaurant open by the end of summer.

Kurt McManis said Mackenzie River is an example of Belgrade’s robust growth, and its possible lessening, if not shedding, of its status as a so-called bedroom suburb of Bozeman.

His business is part of a local dining trend that includes Bar 3’s recent opening in a renovated building on Main Street and last year’s opening of The Local in the Mercantile Building. That led McManis to predict more retail outlets in Belgrade, especially when commercial construction that’s on the drawing board near the airport interchange takes off.

“Belgrade is going to be a different game. There’s a lot of great concepts and operators coming,” he said.

McManis said his project entails an investment of about $750,00 for the building. That excludes the cost of furniture and fixtures that will be installed. He also is getting a separate building permit for the foundation’s concrete.

The building site will have two restaurants, with Mackenzie River occupying the west pad. On the east side, a still-unnamed “high quality” fast casual restaurant with a drive-through will come in later.

McManis, a contractor, began his association with Mackenzie River when the business started 26 years ago. He built the interior of the original restaurant still located on East Main Street in Bozeman. The company grew to include restaurants throughout Montana and then outside the Treasure State. Now known as Glacier Restaurant Group, it is headquartered in Whitefish.

Mackenzie River’s franchises occupy what’s called the “microchain” niche in the restaurant industry. McManis noted with pride that the business has low turnover in an industry not known for employee loyalty.

“Mackenzie River has a great reputation for how they treat people – their culture,” he said.

Mackenzie River has rented space at 409 Main Street in Belgrade, next door to Café M. McManis said he and his wife are keeping the lease, and another restaurant may go in there.

“We’ve outgrown the store. We’re trying to solve every bottleneck we had at that store,” McManis said, referring to limited parking as well as congestion caused by the nearby Main-Jackrabbit intersection and the railroad crossing just south of that.

The new restaurant will feature upgraded beer and wine selections, but McManis said he wants to keep the establishment a family restaurant and not become a bar.

He complimented Belgrade City Hall, in particular planner Jason Karp and his staff, who “have bent over backward” to help on the project. 

He also praised the cooperation he got from Craig Campbell of the Montana Department of Natural Resources, which manages the property where the new restaurants will stand. McManis needed to prepare a proposal and go through a bidding process to get the OK to build on the land.