Tammi Wingeier has lived in the Lowell community for about 46 years. As a child, she loved watching trains pass by. “I would count the cars and wait with anticipation for the caboose.” she reflects. Wingeier would eagerly await the brakeman on the last car of the train, who would wave. Her love of trains, especially the caboose, remained with her into adulthood.
In 1998 she decided she wanted to own a caboose. This started her hunt and after “MANY phone calls, letters, and begging” she found a caboose that was scheduled to be scrapped. She finally achieved her goal. However, the next step would be figuring out how to get the 32-ton caboose from Grand Rapids to Alto. Two semi-trucks and a 50-ton crane were needed to get the move completed.
The caboose was obtained, but now what? After about a year of contemplating, the idea of an ice cream shop emerged and that set the wheels in motion. The Ice Cream Caboose opened in July 2000 with Wingeier having no prior experience. She refers to the first couple of years as “crazy”.
Since opening two decades ago, the Ice Cream Caboose has become a destination. A roof over the deck and a covered picnic area have been added since opening. In addition to frozen treats, menu items also include hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken strips, walking tacos, and pretzel bites. The ice cream, however, is the main attraction. Customers can choose from over 26 flavors of soft-serve ice cream as well as a selection of hand-dipped Hudsonville flavors.
In 2013 the Ice Cream Cabus was put into service. This allowed for ice cream service to travel to community and private events. It traveled to various locations throughout the years until 2020, when all pre-booked events were canceled. With the stationary business growing over the years, the decision to discontinue the CaBus was made this year.
When asked, Wingeier says Candy Playdough is the flavor they go through the most. “The children love it and adults seem to like it too.” she says. “The best part of owning the Ice Cream Caboose is seeing the smiles of the children when you hand them their ice cream. Everybody that comes to the Caboose is in a good mood and very polite.” she comments about why she has loved being part of the business.
Wingeier likes to think about the famous Field of Dreams quote “If you build it they will come” when looking back at her dream of owning a caboose and deciding what to do with it. The Ice Cream Caboose has begun its 21st season selling “good eats and cool treats”. Credit cards are accepted with a minimum payment of $5 and of course cash is always welcome. This community favorite can’t be missed while heading south to 6300 Alden Nash. They are open 11am – 9pm daily. You can also follow them on Facebook for updates.