By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Mom & Pop’s is open. After five years of renovations, Erin Gatchell says it feels good just to say they’re open.
There is still, naturally, a lot of work of a different kind at the ice cream shop in Old Town. Instead of welding the fence in the back, Erin and his wife, Tammey, are thinking about the best way for customers to move through the store.
But he said it feels like they’re moving forward rather than sitting in limbo.
It will take a good night’s sleep for him to really say how it feels, though. He and his wife were at the store until 1 a.m. the previous night to get it ready.
“ We have cut our sleep so much,” he said.
The store had a quiet opening; the Gatchells announced it only on Facebook. But why open an ice cream store in the dead of winter?
Erin Gatchell said they wanted to get themselves and their employees ready during a slower time of the year. The crowds that flocked to Riverfront Park for events last summer would have been difficult for an inexperienced crew to handle.
“Once the busy times come, they know how to get it done,” he said.
They’ve also added items to the menu, like fudge and coffees, to attract customers in the winter.
Still, their menu has been pared down; the Gatchells won’t be selling sandwiches, as they once planned. He said the menu was simplified in order to focus on the basics.
“ We’ve been very particular” about the menu, he said.
Above and behind that menu, the wall is covered with blown-up photos showcasing the building’s history. The store also has a display case with several of the items the couple found in the store during the renovation.
They include a sword with the initials “ WCE” on the pommel. Erin Gatchell thinks that might refer to the World’s Columbian Exposition, an 1893 Chicago event celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World (in 1492).
Erin Gatchell also talked a bit about why they eventually made the decision to open.
This June, the couple announced two days before they were to open that they would instead try to sell the business. The store would put too much strain on the family and its other business, Gatchell Imaging Products, Erin and Tammey decided at the time.
But a combination of an unproven store concept and a shaky economy meant they couldn’t find a buyer. And the hiatus gave the family the time to make changes that would allow them to run both businesses.