If you've been loving the occasional chocolate truffle from Rockin Rudy's, you better get over there quickly - they'll soon be gone and they may not be coming back.
Rudy's has run afoul of the Missoula City-County Health Department, which wants the business to get a license to serve unpackaged foods and install a three-basin sink in the vicinity of the truffle bins.
"We've sold them for the last six or seven years and they're in cases by the front counter," said Rudy's owner Bruce Micklus. "We take very good care not to touch the chocolate and we get them out of there with wax paper."
But that's not good enough.
"Well, they've told us we're not complying, that they want us to have a big sink up there by the front door," Micklus said. "I understand what they're trying to do, but they've taken it to a level that's borderline ridiculous."
The health department's Todd Seib said the problem is that the truffles aren't prepackaged.
"Food that is served that is not prepackaged requires a license and has to abide by state regulations in regard to health," Seib said. "The fact that the chocolates are open is what prompted the request for the licensing."
A license is one thing, of course, but the requirements that go along with it - namely, the sink - are the real difficulty for Rockin Rudy's.
Micklus, in fact, has already looked at the possibility of installing a sink in the front part of the store.
"You may remember that we had a coffee cart up there for a while, and they wanted us to have a sink for that, too," he said. "This part of the building (the old Eddy's Bakery) was a garage, and it has a concrete floor and not much in the way of water lines or drainage. When we looked at putting in a sink for the coffee, it was going to be close to $30,000. Well that squelched that."
And the pricetag squelched the idea of a truffle sink, as well.
"What I'm planning to do is sell the ones I just ordered and then stop having them," said Rudy's Sandy Trenkle. "I'll put them on sale and just get rid of them. It's just really too bad, because people really like them."
The truffles previously sold for $2.25, and Trenkle said she may drop the price to move them quickly. The store sold about 2,000 truffles in August, and Micklus said an average month would likely top $1,500.
"It's not a huge amount of money, but it's hard out there right now," he said. "The idea of getting rid of something that sells sort of irritates me. Especially when it's just ridiculous."
Micklus is doing a little research into the possibility of having the truffles, which he buys out of Texas, individually wrapped, perhaps by Posh Chocolate and perhaps by buying a wrapping machine.
Packaging the truffles would likely solve the problem, Seib said.
"Maybe that will just have to be part of the cost of doing business," Micklus said. "What I'd like them to realize is that the cost of doing business is putting a lot of people out of business."
Micklus just paid $22,000 for sidewalks, so if he can't solve the truffle conundrum inexpensively, he'll solve it by having no more truffles.
"It's too bad, because people really seem to like them as gifts," he said. "To have the health department blow this up is really disappointing."