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'They adapted and they persevered': Iconic Milwaukee custard stand fights to stay open amid pandemic

GILLES FROZEN CUSTARD.jpg
Posted at 8:41 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 21:42:58-04

MILWAUKEE — Over on Bluemound Road in Milwaukee, Gilles Frozen Custard remains open, ready to take your order this #TakeoutTuesday, just as they have for 82 years. They're considered 'essential' under the governor's "Safer at Home" order and can operate with takeout and delivery.

Inside Gilles, the custard is fresh, and the food is hot. All of the traditions are still alive today, decades after it opened as a small custard stand in 1938.

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However, one thing is different — there aren't any customers eating up front. It's upsetting for the owner, Tom Linscott.

"Something that's virtually invisible has changed things dramatically across the board for everybody," Tom said.

The coronavirus has forced restaurants to shut down or rely on other means of service like takeout.

Tom said it was an easy adjustment.

"Our pickup window has been a real saving grace," he said.

The business has been in his family since the 70s, but his father started working at Gilles in the 40s. Now Tom runs the spot with his son, Willy.

"It's a legacy, and I feel you know a certain amount of pride and responsibility to carry that on," Willy said.

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These days, customer interactions are limited, and so are their hours and staff.

"I don't want to be the one that the torch goes out on, you know I won't let that happen," Willy said.

Though, this isn't their first rodeo.

"They kept this thing running during the war and during the rations, so you know it's something new, but it's something that you know those before us have struggled through as well," Tom said.

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Those loyal customers like Scott Hill will still come in, and hopefully even some new ones.

"You've got to have lunch anyway, right?" Scott said.

History has a way of repeating itself. It just may take time.

"They adapted, and they persevered, and here we are today," Tom said.

You can support Gilles calling in an order at (414) 453-4875, and then getting your food at their pickup window. They are also willing to bring the food out to your car.

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