ANACONDA – They are barefoot on the dance floor, moving fluidly with confidence.
“Let go,” Kristine Smith coaches, outstretching her arms like wings. “Don’t hold on; it does you no good.”
Six women draw deep breaths, reach, then fold forward with a collective exhale that is audible over fresh cubes tumbling from an icemaker.
“You can do this; you’re super solid,” Smith says.
A man outside cups his hands to the window of The Revolver, 221 E. Park St., sees the dislocated scene and steps back with a puzzled grin. The morning yoga class is unaffected, continuing to reach, rise and release with the composition of boutique yoga students in a posh downtown studio.
The Revolver, however, is a small-town Montana bar.
“I don’t like the feeling of ‘it has to fit in a box,’” Smith said while serving cocktails to a sprinkling of customers on a Sunday afternoon. “It’s a space. It has four walls and a covering. It’s got all the attributes needed for a yoga studio.”
The same qualities are suitable for an art gallery, as it turns out. The Revolver also rotates work by local professional artists.
“It’s very odd, art in a bar,” said Doug Mason, who manages the paintings that his mother, widely respected artist Marilynn Dwyer Mason, left after her death in 2022. Her portraits of American Indians rotate exclusively at The Revolver. “To be fair, it’s really not a bar. It’s much nicer. There’s nothing else like it in Montana.”
Like its owner, The Revolver models flexibility. A recreation economy is blowing the dust off Anaconda, a community built by copper smeltermen. New business owners are nurturing the community, nursing old buildings to health and raising new commercial ventures. It requires tensility, resilience and open-mindedness.
It’s also a prime time for women entrepreneurs to shine, Smith said.
“Women are adventurous,” she said. “We’re careful. The nurturing and the love that women have and aren’t afraid to exhibit is the advantage.”
The Revolver, with its varied purposes, is a home for what Smith needs, wants and loves: her own yoga studio, investment in Anaconda, a business venture, art and music.
“It’s all like raising children,” said Smith, who is also a wife and mom. “Am I doing this right? Is there a manual for this? No manual. You’ve just gotta go for it.”
Frontier femininity sets The Revolver apart from the run-of-the-mill, stale Western bar. Fresh mint growing in the window flavors water during yoga and cocktails during happy hour. The pickles in the signature bloody Mary and the blueberry-lavender shrub in a seasonal drink are from Smith’s kitchen. Wooden tables, leather chairs and cowhide rugs provide homestyle comfort.
“It’s a nice place to gather,” said Pat Clayton, who shows his underwater photography at the bar. “She’s got a pretty classy place going.”
It happened mostly by accident.
Smith didn’t set out to be a proprietor when she and her husband Sean bought the building.
Actually, Smith was teaching yoga in a studio two doors away in 2018 when heavy snow collapsed the roof. Meanwhile, the owners of 221 E. Park St., had recently renovated the building, which was built in 1902 and was originally a department store, and added a bar with limited hours. They welcomed Smith’s yoga classes while she shopped for a permanent home. Then, when the building went up for sale in 2020, Smith jumped at the opportunity.
“I was always keeping my eye open for a building to buy,” Smith said. “I wanted to have my own yoga space. I wanted to invest in Anaconda. We didn’t even understand the big picture of ‘we’re buying a bar.’ The yoga came first.”
Youthfully energetic at 52, Smith is the challenge-tackling type. Raised on a Minnesota dairy farm, she is a former U.S. Army diesel mechanic. She originally came to Montana from Minnesota in the early 2000s to help a friend build a cabin near Flint Creek Pass.
“They didn’t ask for help. I just said I wanted to go and help,” she said, laughing. “The rest is history.”
She married Sean, and they had two children and experimented with business ventures. When Anaconda was struggling economically, they turned a barn west of town into a successful event venue and a yurt at Georgetown Lake into a popular vacation rental.
“Twenty years ago, this town was dilapidated, broken down and not even beginning to rejuvenate,” she said. Its roots grew on her long before any blossoms appeared, and she established her yoga practice.
“I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl, but Anaconda grounded me,” she said. “I fell in love with the people. They are very loyal to their community.”
Naturally, she leaned into the challenge of bar ownership. The COVID-19 pandemic limited social gathering just as she planned to open, but she heeded the advice she gives her students at yoga – “however you get there, it’s OK” – and she named the place.
“I wanted revolving art, and revolving drinks,” Smith said. “Aha, The Revolver.”
Mason said that showing and selling his mother’s art, which has a global audience, at The Revolver is really about connection.
“They’re good people,” he said of the Smiths. “They are very community aware and heavily involved. To me, that’s a very important thing.”
Community is a theme at Monday yoga, as well.
“Breathe – morning Brad – and lift,” Smith instructs, interrupting herself to greet the gaming machine man.
“I love her Monday class,” said Lydia Janosko, a regular and an Anaconda resident. “It helps to set my intentions for the week.”
“I didn’t even notice it was a bar,” said Mary Mann, from nearby Philipsburg. “I just knew it was her space. I know wherever we do it, we’re in a safe space.”
The yoga vibes translate to bar hours, too. Hilary Catton and Matty Gorman recalled stopping in after moving to Anaconda from Colorado last winter.
“We sat at those two chairs at the end,” Catton said, pointing. “It was so welcoming and warm. It didn’t feel like, “Where you from?”
It is validating, Smith said, when she loses faith in luck, to know that her labor of love is building community.
“There are days when your sales won’t cover the costs of your bartender or keeping the lights on,” Smith said. “I take a breath and sleep on it. It’s going to be OK. It comes down to hard work.”
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