Mullen's Dairy Bar and Eatery, one of Watertown's oldest landmarks, has changed hands once again.
Ron and Gloria Luepke, owners of Mullen's at 212 W. Main St. since 1996, announced Monday that Kandyman Can, LLC has agreed to purchase the company and all of its assets.
Josh, Matt and Adam Keepman, brothers with roots in the Watertown community, make up Kandyman Can's principal ownership team.
"Our grandfather (Erv Keepman Jr.) grew up on Second Street here in Watertown," Josh Keepman said in a recent press release. "As a young boy, he had a paper route and would come to Mullen's after collecting to enjoy an extra thick chocolate malt with a raw egg on top."
The Keepmans plan to reopen the historic dairy bar in spring of 2017, a prospect that will require months of cleaning and renovations.
Josh Keepman said he and his brothers look to restore Mullen's to its former glory, adding a touch of new, but keeping the same nostalgic feel many Watertonians have come to know and love.
Josh Keepman said their goals go beyond just reopening the doors. The Keepmans are looking to partner with the community in order to tackle some of the projects that will revitalize the storied business. To do this, the trio have launched an online Kickstarter campaign.
Kickstarter is an online fund-raising mechanism that allows people to pledge money anonymously toward a goal. The goal, however, must be reached within a given time period or the donations will be refunded. The Keepmans set a goal of $40,000 for the campaign which looks to rebuild the famous soda fountain bar, refurbish the Main Street sign and add ADA compliant, first floor bathrooms.
Fans of Mullen's have 56 more days to achieve the targeted sum which is well on its way, with the campaign already reaching $2,640 in the first four days.
Donors can pledge anywhere from $5 to $1,000 and donation amounts are divided into benchmarks that will earn them rewards like T-shirts and memorabilia. Those interested in donating can visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mullensdairybar/make-mullens-great-again.
In addition to reopening the dairy bar, the Keepmans plan to expand Mullen's brand regionally into grocery stores as well as make the product available for nationwide shipping from its website, www.mullensdairybar.com.
Matt Keepman is no stranger to frozen fare. He owns Savoy Sorbet, a company based out of Irving, Texas. After his product was picked up by Wisconsin grocery store Sendick's, he decided to move production within the state.
The Keepman's plan to sell Savoy Sorbet alongside Mullen's traditional ice cream treats.
"We feel blessed to be a part of the history here at Mullen's," Matt Keepman said in the press release. "We are grateful to the previous owners, Ron and Gloria Luepke, for their friendship and commitment to making sure Mullen's will remain a Watertown establishment for many years to come."
The Mullen's sign will continue to be lit up at night, reminding those with a sweet tooth of what's to come as renovations get underway.
"It's something that we understand is very important to the area," Josh Keepman said, "We view ourselves as the managers of something that really belongs to the Watertown community, and we're trying to make it the same Mullen's people remember. As Ron Luepke likes to say, it's like your first date all over again."