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You Scream, Ice Cream

The Danc’n Bean brings Bridgeman’s ice cream back to Eau Claire

Emilee Wentland, photos by Andrea Paulseth

SUNDAE! SUNDAE! SUNDAE! Roger Wrobel has opened new café and ice cream shop, The Danc’n Bean.
SUNDAE! SUNDAE! SUNDAE! Roger Wrobel has opened new café and ice cream shop, The Danc’n Bean.

Things in life tend to come full circle. At least that’s what local resident Roger Wrobel said about his family’s new cafe and ice cream shop, The Danc’n Bean at 2803 E. Hamilton Ave.

“A lot of people, when they hear Bridgeman’s, they come running.” – Roger Wrobel of The Danc’n Bean on Bridgeman’s Ice Cream

Wrobel and his wife, Rita, met in the ’80s when they were both working at Bridgeman’s Ice Cream in Minneapolis. They got married a year and a half later. Now, after three decades, Rita and Roger are dishing up Bridgeman’s Ice Cream again at their cafe.

“(Bridgeman’s) was excited obviously that I said I wanted to bring Bridgeman’s back to Eau Claire,” Roger said. “And just the reception from the people in the area – a lot of people, when they hear Bridgeman’s, they come running.”

The Danc’n Bean gets its name from its neighbor, Infinity Dance Center, which is owned by the Wrobels’ daughter, Rachel Wrobel-Leath. Rachel always dreamed of opening a cafe, and realizing that dream is all the sweeter with the addition of her parents’ favorite ice cream.

The Wrobels certainly aren’t the only ones nostalgic about Bridgeman’s. Bridgeman’s was a popular Midwestern ice cream chain – there was once a Bridgeman’s at Eau Claire’s London Square Mall – but the bulk of their locations closed in the mid-to-late ’80s, Roger said. The family has heard many stories of customers’ memories of the ice cream shop, whether they are tales of working at an establishment or eating there. Most of them were excited to see the Wrobels scooping the ice cream in the famous Bridgeman’s fashion, something many sellers have stopped doing, Roger said.

“The uniqueness of Bridgeman’s when we started was scooping had to be done a certain way,” Roger said. “A single scoop was one, tall roll that would stand up on the cone. You’d start it and roll it right off the end until it’s done and you put it on the cone. Nowadays, they don’t do that.”

The Danc’n Bean is paying homage to retro ice cream shops in more ways than one with its use of classic-style glass sundae bowls. The cafe also features original Bridgeman’s flavors, such as cherry nut, and sundaes, such as their famous giant La La Palooza sundae (eat the entire thing, Rachel said, and you get a button). Some of the most popular flavors sold so far are blueberry cheesecake, caramelicious, and Superman, which Roger said is a big hit among the kids.

Rachel hopes The Danc’n Bean will serve as a study spot for students. The cafe is complete with charging ports and Wi-Fi. Roger loves when kids come to visit because their eyes always light up when they get their treats. He made sure the window for seeing the ice cream was low enough that even the smallest kids could see.

Ice cream isn’t the only item on the menu. They also have an espresso bar and drip coffee, complete with all sorts of flavors, from vanilla or lavender to more unusual ones, such as watermelon or rose. All the drinks on the menu are named after dance terms, like the plie latte (which Rachel said is just a normal latte).

“The kids get really excited when they know how to pronounce the words because they’re in French,” Rachel said, referencing her dance students. “We teach them the vocabulary (in the dance center) when they’re old enough to understand, and they’ll pronounce the drinks better than their parents.”

The Wrobels agreed they enjoy being creative with sundaes and drinks, and they encourage their employees to do so. So far, the employees have created a S’mores sundae and a Cookie Monster sundae.

“We enjoy being more on the customer side of things,” Rita said. “Some people are so afraid to do anything with variations, but we love it.”

The Danc’n Bean • 2803 E Hamilton Ave., Eau Claire • 9am-8pm Monday-Friday and 9am-7pm Saturday and Sunday • facebook.com/dancnbean

Chef's Picks

La La Palooza: This eight-scoop sundae sits in a 32-ounce glass dish. Scattered on top of the ice cream is pineapple, caramel, strawberry, pecans, peanuts, banana, whipped cream and cherries. The Danc’n Bean is willing to substitute ice cream flavors and toppings upon request. Those brave enough to finish this enormous portion will be the lucky winner of a button.

Apple pie with cinnamon-flavored ice cream: Rachel Wrobel-Leath, the owners’ daughter, said this pie and ice cream combination goes perfectly together. The cinnamon ice cream brings out the cinnamon flavors in the pie.

Bada Bing cherry sundae: This classic hot fudge sundae features vanilla ice cream, bing cherries, hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry on top.