When Gilles announced renovations last spring to Milwaukee’s oldest surviving custard stand at 7515 W. Bluemound Rd. – and still one of the city's beloved favorites – you didn’t have to worry about losing access to Gilliecookies or Those Things or any sublime frozen custard.
Owner Tom Linscott made it clear from the get-go that the stand – opened by Paul Gilles in 1938 and purchased in 1977 by Linscott's father Bob, a longtime employee – would remain open during construction, and so it did.
This is the third makeover for the stand. The first was completed during the 1948-49 offseason, and the most recent took place during the winter of 1977-78, when the now year-round stand was still only open seasonally.
When we stopped in just before Christmas, work – which began in September – was ongoing, so we popped back over this week for an update.
Here are renderings of the updates that were displayed inside the stand last summer:
(Photos: Gilles Frozen Custard)
Folks who don’t pay much attention to these things – and those who enter Gilles with their vision clouded by images of dancing cones of custard – might not even really notice the changes, though there are most certainly changes.
Among the work undertaken this time 'round are a new standing-seam metal roof, new electrical, new food prep machinery and a pick-up window on the west side of the building – where old-timers may remember the old Dog House hot dog window once standing – which has led the relocation of the west entrance to the north side.
Linscott said that most of the work is complete, though there is still a construction punch-list of touch-up and finish items and a handful of other tasks that will be completed over time, including new menu boards and a new window going in on the east side of the building.
That opening, Linscott added, could become another walk-up window during busy times, though he and his staff are looking at the layout of the work stations to maximize efficiency before making that decision.
Most noticeable of all is a new architectural element projecting up from the roof on the east side of the building near the entrance.
That element conjures memories of a similar vertical projection from the roof of the stand – though on the opposite side – as it appeared in the 1950s-70s. You can see in the second photo below (all are from "Milwaukee Frozen Custard," a book I recently co-wrote with Kathleen McCann for The History Press, and were provided by Linscott):
Gilles, December 1944. (Courtesy of Gilles Frozen Custard & The History Press)
A later image of the 1948-49 remodeling. (Courtesy of Gilles Frozen Custard & The History Press)
The 1977-78 model. (Courtesy of Gilles Frozen Custard & The History Press)
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.