Featuring Montana’s Original Wild Huckleberry

Eva Gates Story

In 1949, Eva Gates’ strawberry patch was unusually abundant. Instead of letting all those strawberries go to waste, Eva made jam. Well, preserves actually. Equipped with the recipe handed down to her by her grandmother and her wood cook stove, she set about putting up all the strawberries that her garden produced. The jars she gave away were so well liked that friends and neighbors began asking for them – even offering to pay! When she mentioned to her husband, George, that she wished she could make a business out of it, he told her that if something was good enough, people would buy it.
They began cooking the preserves in their two-room log home on a wood cook stove, five pints at a time. By 1954 they had built a new log home and turned the original over to the business, but continued to use the wood range until 1966 when they had an electric range custom-built to duplicate the operation of the wood stove. That electric range is the same one that all Eva Gates products are still cooked on and still in five pint batches!

Today, Eva’s granddaughter and great-grandchildren carry on her tradition of excellence, making six kinds of fruit preserves and three syrups (all added to the line by Eva between 1950 and 1956). These regional varieties capture the most distinctive flavors of the wild Northwestern Montana Rockies. We haven’t forgotten what made the first batch sell so well in 1949. Everything is made from the exact same recipes, without additives or preservatives, with the same methods used for over 70 years. Two cooks prepare, cook, bottle and label every jar by hand. All of the preserves and syrups are still truly “homemade” just like your grandmother probably made in her own kitchen.

Ownership and management of Eva Gates Homemade Preserves has remained in the family. After Eva retired, her daughter-in-law, Maxine Gates ran the business from 1973 to 1985, Eva’s granddaughter, Pamela Gates Siess from 1985 to 1999. Since then, Eva’s granddaughter Gretchen Gates and great–grandson Job Sun oversees daily operations.

Even though we are no longer in the two-room log house, having moved the business to downtown Bigfork in 1979, we still have the same homey atmosphere. You can still stop in for a visit, watch the preserves being made and taste the delicious results.