Fond du Lac custard shop turns 70

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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - A Fond du Lac favorite celebrates a very big birthday. Gilles Frozen Custard Drive-In turns 70 years old.

Gilles Custard carhop delivers another order (WBAY photo)

"Frozen in Time Since 1949," Gilles Frozen Custard has been in the same Main Street location in Fond du Lac for 70 years, but some people still don't know how to say its name.

According to owner, Jim Gilles, "We have Gillieburgers and Gilliecookies and Gilliedog, but if we answer the phone, 'Hello, Gilles,' they sometimes hang up and call us later because they want Gilly's, but it is Gilles, yes."

Whether they call it Gilles or Gilly's, crowds have been coming to the drive-in for seven decades, not just for the food but for the experience.

"It's just a drive-in, you don't find them much anymore. Gilles is always good," says Dianne Welak of Campbellsport.

Tony Ferdinand of Fond du Lac adds, "Good food, good camaraderie, good people, and good owners."

Long-serving carhop Julie Colwin agrees, it's the people who help to make Gilles so special, both the employee and the customers.

Colwin started working at Gilles 16 years ago but doesn't really consider it a job. She says, "I thought maybe 5 years and then I was going to go back onto school or whatever, but I enjoy working with these young girls and they're a lot of fun, keep you alive, keep you going."

And at a time when not many businesses survive as long as Gilles, they believe the "If it's not broke, why fix it" philosophy has helped with the drive-in's longevity.

Jim Gilles adds, "I think we sustain it by staying true to our original values that my dad had. We always have quality products. Getting the best people possible, we try to never compromise on a hire, and we're a little unique because 70 years ago there were a few of these around and now only a few left so we're very fortunate."

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