Iconic Aledo restaurant will open Friday, April 8

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record
Brent Bowlyou & his mother, Linda Bowlyou, stand in front of the Aledo Tastee-Freez on Thursday, April 7.

The oldest operating Tastee-Freez in the United States will reopen at 11 a.m. Friday for its 66th year, the 26th year it's been owned by the Bowlyou family. Many Aledo and Mercer County residents wondered what the future held for the familiar restaurant when owner Jerry "Lynnie" Bowlyou passed away on Aug. 31 of last year.

"I just didn't want to let it sit," said Bowlyou's widow, Linda, who will manage the Tastee-Freez this year with son, Brent. "It's kind of an icon here in Aledo."

"It was the second one ever built," Brent said. "It was an experimental store."

She said a lot of people asked her if they planned to reopen, as the eatery usually opened in March.

"We know the public didn't want it to close," Brent said. "It's serving not just Aledo but Mercer County."

"It's going to be cold, but I think they (customers) will be here," Linda said of Friday's opening.

Brent earlier said they'd done a lot of work inside the restaurant over the winter, especially in the kitchen and dining room.

Asked during a visit to the refurbished diner what changes had been made in the kitchen, Linda laughed and said, "Everything."

Brent and Linda alternated talking about the new ceiling, new floor, stainless steel sinks, new fryers, grills and a new electrical system. There's also a new "twist" machine for twist ice cream cones.

"It's kind of been a family effort," Brent said, "since January."

He said everyone from the family's children, spouses and in-laws have been hard at work, even his 80-year-old grandmother.

"We've been here 'til 3 or 4 in the morning every weekend," Linda said.

Once the weather warms, Brent said there will be plenty of scraping of the old paint, with new paint for the exterior of the building.

As for the dining room, he said there were no major changes, but it was cleaned and freshened up. That includes new pictures on the walls and an Aledo Tastee-Freez mirror. New lighting is planned.

"Hopefully it will warm up and I'm able to get our patio ready," Brent said. "I don't think anybody will be sitting out there this weekend."

There's a good chance he's right. Friday is expected to be windy, with a high of 45, the same high predicted for Saturday. While Sunday's high is expected to warm up to 61, rain is in the forecast. Still, Brent observed, it's expected to be warmer next week.

Even the employee roster has been revamped.

"New management - my mother and I - new employees, new help," Brent said. "Actually, we're continuing to accept applications."

He said anyone interested in applying for a job at the Tastee-Freez should stop by for an application.

The menu?

"Pretty much the same," Brent said.

"Our menu was really huge," Linda said. "We shortened it. The favorites are always there; the tenderloins and pizza burgers."

Brent said while some items were taken off the menu, the changes were not major.

Employees usually include people of all ages. A few years back a "70-some-year-old woman" worked there. Some of the current employees are 16, almost 17.

"We hired several employees who worked here several years ago," Brent said, adding that they will employ 10-12 people.

He and his mother said Lynnie had several high school students working at the restaurant, many who continued to work during the summer while they were attending college. Many now are successful with families of their own.

She said it meant a lot to the family when a lot of those former employees came back last summer for her husband's funeral.

Hours for the Tastee-Freez will be 11-9 p.m. during the school year, then it will be open until 10 p.m. during summer break. That's not a hard and fast schedule, however.

"As long as customers are here, I'll stay open," Linda said.

"We are going to keep the tradition going," said her son.