RE: Jake's Deli - Miilwaukee
Fri, 04/11/08 6:56 AM
I guess this thread should have been labeled Kopp's in Milwaukee. Sunday's offering of Imperial Torte has a history, a history tied into the origin of Kopp's, with Leon's Frozen Custard a part of it too.
The History of Kopp's Frozen Custard begins with Elsa Kopp. Elsa Kopp came up with a concept as revolutionary as it was delicious.
The founder of Kopp's Frozen Custard, she is generally credited with the idea of offering a flavor of the day. That paved the way for the likes of today's flavors, Snickers Chunky Cheesecake frozen custard, and Wednesday's Pink Ribbon, the latter with ribbons of raspberry and white chocolate chunks.
Kopp, an undisputed matriarch in the local custard business for more than 50 years, died of natural causes, in 2003. She was 92.
She opened the first Kopp's Frozen Custard stand in 1950 as a way to support her family after her husband became disabled with Parkinson's disease.
By the 1960's, she was playing with the basic custard mixes -- vanilla and chocolate and then strawberry -- to create new tasty treats. In the earliest days of frozen custard, it was considered heresy to tamper with the purity of the vanilla custard experience, son Karl Kopp said. Elsa Kopp kept working in the family business until about 1998, coming in a few hours at least a couple of days a week. She was still working when a newspaper feature on frozen custard erroneously made reference to the "late" Elsa Kopp.
“I think I'll have a little sundae today,” she would say before leaving work.
“It would be a small one,” Karl said. “A little vanilla custard, a little hot fudge, sliced bananas and a few pecans. And a little bit of marshmallow.”
Even in her last years, as she began experiencing Alzheimer's disease, work was still what was important to her, said daughter Elizabeth Collins.
"What work do you do?" she would ask the nursing staff.” She was always interested in what people did," Collins said. "She had a very, very strong work ethic."
Certainly no one would have predicted that Kopp, who had no real experience in business, would be such a success.
She was born Elsa Moll in Munsingen , Germany , coming to the United States in 1929 when she was just 18. She traveled by boat, then by train to Milwaukee , where an aunt she never met lived.
"She came on her own," said her daughter. "She grew up on a farm, and she really didn't want that life."
Kopp began work as a maid, feeling lonely and homesick until she began taking night classes in English at Whitefish Bay High School . That helped her meet other German immigrants and then her future husband, Karl Kopp, who was a tool and die maker and with the Milwaukee Turners.
"After the three of us were born, my dad became ill with Parkinson's disease," their daughter said. Elsa Kopp next worked other jobs, including at Militzer's Bakery and restaurant. Leon Schneider, of Leon 's Frozen Custard Drive-in, would come in to service the custard machine there.
"With some help from Leon Schneider, she got started in business," Collins said.
She began Kopp's Frozen Custard Stand at 6005 W. Appleton Ave. , using a recipe tweaked the way she like it. She later built the west side apartment building where she raised her family and continued to live until her health began to fail.
"I remember her working every day from 8 a.m. until after midnight , stopping home in between to care for my father and us kids, prepare dinner, and do the household chores," Karl said.
But, for Elsa Kopp, the business of making custard and sandwiches was as much about feeding people as making money. The custard stand was usually open until at least midnight , often 1 a.m. If customers knocked on the door later, it didn't matter that the business was closed.
"She'd turn on the grill again," Karl said.
"No, he needs a little something to eat," she would tell her employees. "We'll make it real quick. We can do that."
Dick "Mac" McGuire, who first knew Kopp while a teenage employee, laughed as he remembered that drill.
"Give that man a burger," she would say. "He's hungry."
"I started there when I was in high school - I was about 15 - about 1964," he said. By then, Karl Kopp was taking over the business. Later, Elsa Kopp wanted to be an owner again, and she and McGuire teamed up to run the original Kopp's location, now the site of Robert's Frozen Custard.
In 1991, McGuire built a bigger custard stand at 18880 W. Blue Mound Road in Brookfield , which he continues to run.
Karl Kopp is the owner at two Kopp's locations - 5373 N. Port Washington Road , Glendale , and 7631 W. Layton Ave. - and Elsa's on the Park downtown.
One guesses who the inspiration for the last one was.
Karl, known for developing his own raft of specialty flavors, long ago created a special flavor in his mother's honor. Offered just one day a year, it is a rather European treat, rich with hazelnut and affectionately named Imperial Torte.
Look for it next year and every year, on the Sunday closest to her April 18 birthday.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Into our custard we add caramel, rum and nougat flavors, then sprinkle in French pastry crust and chocolate flakes. Once a year only in April!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
A natural raspberry flavor with sweet, tart berries