Here’s a fascinating article about one of the Bank Building’s most iconic residents — who remembers the ice cream at Gustafson’s?
GUSTAFSON’S: THE BEGINNING OF AN EMPIRE
Ice Cream Shop at Sixth and Main Was Origins of Dutch Girl
By Tony Hazarian
For the Sentinel
Elmer Gustafson swears he still can remember the way a Gussie’s frosted malt — chocolate, he recalls — slid down his throat. Flavorful. Light. Smooth.
“I haven’t tasted anything as good before or since,” says Elmer, one of six Gustafson brothers who merged their talents in the late 1930s to make Gustafson’s fountain and cafe one of Cottage Grove’s most popular social spots for two decades.
The parlor, which was located in the Bank Building at Fifth and Main streets, was known for its upbeat atmosphere and downright delicious sandwiches.
But it was the ice cream which everyone, including Elmer, remembers. And it’s no wonder.
The ice cream developed in the small back room was so good the Gustafson brothers turned the recipe into a million-dollar business — the Dutch Girl Ice Cream Co. of Eugene.
Today, the ice cream — known years ago as Gustafson’s “Super-cream Ice Cream” — comes out at a rate of 2,500 half gallons an hour, a production schedule in stark contrast from the days Elmer and his brothers would have to make ice cream round the clock too keep up with the daytime demand. And while Elmer claims Dutch Girl ice cream meets the same high standards the Gustafson brothers — Melvin, Claus, Ruben, Oliver and Kenneth — set forth at Gussie’s, he admits the days of hand packing pints and quarts hold a special place in his heart even now, nearly 40 years later.
“Cottage Grove was so very good to us,” he says. “It was a happy place and we were very excited about it. We made some very special friends.”
It wasn’t difficult to make or find friends at Gustafson’s during its heyday in the late 1940s. During the day, city hall employees, policemen and downtown business people frequented the parlor for coffee or lunch.
And like the corner soda shops depicted in films of the era, Gussie’s attracted droves of teenagers after school.
“Boy, did it ever,” says Melvin Gustafson, who now lives in Mesa, Ariz. and vacations in the Willamette Valley during the summer. “I remember it as being the headquarters of the young people.”
Melvin, who worked for the College Ice Cream Co. of Eugene prior to going into business at Gustafson’s, recalls that people would line up for the famous frosted malts. A mild chocolate ice cream blended with malted milk, Gussie’s employees would top off the glass with shaved Hershey’s chocolate.
“There was nothing that could tickle the palate more,” says Melvin, concurring with his brother.
Norma Rich, who worked in the parlor in the late 1940s while attending Cottage Grove High School, remembers Gussie’s as “always a neat place for the kids to go.” The ice cream, she adds, “seemed to make it special.”
“Oh my yes, it was good. I remember making frosted malts and chocolate sodas like crazy,” Rich says. “It was always so fresh.”
While the 10 cent frosted malt was the mainstay of the parlor’s menu, Gussie’s was also known citywide for the light meals and its catering to the downtown coffee crowd, remembers Carolyn Workman.
Workman, a nice of the Gustafson brothers who became one of the original “Dutch Girls” with her cousin, Nanda, recalls working in the store during the day when the women from Knickerbocker’s and City Hall would drop in for a cup of coffee and a spoonful of gossip. The juke box, which sprang to life after school, lay silent while people gabbed away, she says.
“We coffee’d everyone,” Workman says. “It seemed like a revolving door with all the people who would come and go.”
The Gustafson brothers, who had started Dutch Girl in a Eugene creamery just a year after opening Gustafson’s, devoted their energies to the wholesale manufacturing of ice cream in the late 1950s and sold the Cottage Grove business.
After establishing a solid foundation in the trade, the Gustafson brothers turned the Dutch Brothers operations over to Ruben’s son about 10 years ago to enjoy the fruits of retirement. And, very likely, some ice cream.