Rick Westenmeyer has been dishing up soft-serve with a twist for the past 37 years. First it was Boy Blue, then it was Blue Boy, and the business is now experiencing middle age.
Westenmeyer has been there the whole time, along with his parents Donald (now deceased) and Marjorie (89 and still helping out).
The local Boy Blue franchise began in 1974 next to Lauer’s Grocery Store. The Westenmeyers bought it in 1980, and eight years later faced a big change.
“Our lease was running out and the grocery store wanted to expand into our space,” Rick said. “They wanted to go through the wall and put a deli in our building. Between a small ice cream store and keeping a big grocery store happy, the landlord decided we had to go.”
The answer was right down the street in a former Phillips 66 gas station at 301 N. Spring St. It had been built in the 1950s and was last operated by Ray Nehring as a self-service station. The building had two unused service bays, which provided enough square footage to comfortably fit the Westenmeyers’ Boy Blue franchise.
“A lot of the stores in the chain were located in corner gas stations, and that’s what we found here,” Westenmeyer said. “It was a real mess with a heater hanging from the ceiling and a burner that used waste oil to help keep the place warm in winter. There was a bathroom with an outside door and another one inside. We gutted it, redesigned it, insulated it and put in thermal-paned windows, put all the piping in the ground, added a drive-through and were ready to go.”
The store’s equipment was hauled to the new location over three days. The cooler was too long to get into a truck and was rolled down the street on a dolly.
“That was probably pretty funny for people to watch,” Westenmeyer said, “but it worked.”
The chain did little to support its franchise holders and eventually Rick and his family went off on their own.
“Boy Blue was a big chain then and there were probably 86 of them in the state, most of them in the Milwaukee area,” Westenmeyer said. “Eventually there was a new owner and it started to go downhill. Now there are maybe three stores left. When we decided to go out on our own, it took so long for a company rep to get here that we had already changed all the signs and used up all the cups and other things with company logos. We were able to get the same soft-serve mix from our supplier, even though it didn’t have the company name on it.”
At the suggestion of the Watertown franchise owner, Westenmeyer changed the name to Blue Boy.
The store has developed its own personality over the years, changing its menu to suit customer tastes and desires. In addition to its popular soft-serve treats, the shop offers ice cream,
beverages, sandwiches, air-baked (not fried) side dishes and pizzas, and other items.
Westenmeyer is there most days and nights keeping an eye on things and helping out wherever he is needed. He has also gained lots of memories.
“A lot of older customers come in and say they came here as kids,” Westenmeyer said. “There are a lot of kids who come in after their days at the middle school, and some of them have worked here as well. I have a lot of good memories from working here so many years.”
It all takes dedication, and Westenmeyer, who has never married, counts that by the tub.
“I’m married to the job,” he said. “I open the store and I close it. That’s one reason we close down each year from the end of November to the beginning of February.
“It’s slow around then, so it makes sense to take a break then. In December and January, ice cream is not a big seller.”
He and Marjorie enjoy a timeshare in Cancun, Mexico, lounging on the beach, enjoying a tropical cocktail and meeting friends they have made over the years.
And if an ice cream machine breaks down there, he may or may not help out.
“Everybody needs a little down time,” he said with a smile.