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Today's word on

Friday, April 8, 2005

"Once you have learned how to ask questions, you have learned how to learn."

--Neil Postman, journalism scholar (1931-2003)

USU JCOM NEWS NOTE: THE JCOM Department celebrates the Class of 2005 Friday with JDay, showcasing the best of student work in print and broadcast journalism, the Web, photo, and public relations. Followed by the annual JCOM Awards Banquet--student awards, 2005-06 scholarship winner, speaker Robert Kirby of the Salt Lake Tribune, all with fine dining. For information or reservations, contact the USU JCOM Department at or 435-797-3292.

Fat Boy paradise: rich, rich ice cream in -- where else? -- Richmond

By Brooke Barker

March 25, 2005 | "Hey, Squirrelz, Guess where I am!"

Adam was calling again! Adam and the Red Devil.

"I DON'T KNOW. Where?" He didn't really want an answer, and Squirrelz didn't seem to care. Adam wanted to rub wherever he was in Squirrelz's face and she knew it.

"The Red Devil and I are eating sundaes and watching Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches be made."


"If I told you, I'd have to kill you." Click.

Six months later, Squirrelz found the factory nestled in Richmond, Utah. This small factory is rich: rich in history, rich in flavor, rich in profits and rich with memories.

Casper Merrill, the founder of Casper's Ice Cream, grew up in Richmond and graduated from Utah State Agricultural College in 1925. Casper then took over the family business. The Thornwood Dairy Farm was failing, so Casper took a chance and quit bottling milk to begin manufacturing ice cream.

The chance has become a Utah favorite and nationwide classic. The ice cream factory has also stuck with the Merrill family and Richmond.

Casper's Ice Cream consists of two main products: Casco Bars and Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches.

A "Fat Boy" does not resemble a boy at all, but an ice cream sandwich.

There are several flavors of Fat Boys: Strawberry, Cookies and Cream, Funky Fudge, Vanilla and Chocolate and seasonal flavors such as Eggnog.

Most of the flavors are square shaped and about the size of 10 floppy disks stacked on top of one another. The cookies and cream ice cream sandwich is circular and about the thickness of a hockey puck.

"I like Fat Boys more than other ice cream sandwiches because they are rich in butter fat. A good ice cream sandwich will have butter fat to keep it from melting quickly in your hands," said John Barker, a self-proclaimed ice cream expert. Barker lives in Washington State and is constantly hunting for Cache Valley ice cream products in grocery stores.

Casco Bar's main competitor is the Good Humor sundae bar. This bar, however, has twice as much ice cream. It looks like a rectangular-shaped ice cream Popsicle. The ice cream is dipped in a chocolate coating and sprinkled with crushed peanuts.

The Casco Bar wasn't invented by Casper, but by his brother David.

While Casper was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, David wrote him on January 1926, saying: "I've done a little experimenting with a new specialty that I think will be a good seller. I take a brick of vanilla ice cream and mark it into squares. Then I shove a stick into each section and after three or four hours in the hardening room, I cut the sections marked, dip them in chocolate and roll them in nuts."

The Casco Bars continue to be as popular as David thought they would.

Production gets crazy every year beginning in March. Crazy at the factory can be described as peanuts flying, sticky floors, 17 hour days, fingers getting cut off (which has only happened four times in 75 years) and 100 employees. While working full-force, the factory produces four Fat Boys per second. A lot of Fat Boys have taken a trip through this room.

Right now the assembly room looks like an emergency room in a hospital.

Workers have white hair covers, white lab coats and goggles on. They work with gloves on and all in a particular method. A constant buzz can be heard echoing from the machines, and the classic rock music from the radio is loud enough to be heard over the hum of the conveyor belt. The room smells of sugar.

"The smell of sugar tempts you for a while, but after a few weeks after starting work, the smell disappears and can no longer tempt you," Rachel Seamons, who has worked in the Malt Shoppe for almost a year, said.

Jeanette Rigby, who also works in the Malt Shoppe, remembers when the production room was short-staffed and needed her to help make Casco Bars. Rigby was in charge of dipping the ice cream bars in warm chocolate. The chocolate tub was on her right, the moving ice cream on her left. While pulling a fresh Casco bar out of the creamy chocolate, it slipped from her hands and hit her trainer in the face.

"He had chocolate all over his face, and all I was doing was staring in horror," Rigby said. Since her "Lucy-moment," Rigby has remained on the other side of the facility selling "rejects" to customers and watching production through a window the size of a chalkboard with all the other visitors. The production facility is not an unknown world to her; she can say "been there, done that."

Rejects are those Fat Boys and Casco Bars sold in boxes of 50 in the Malt Shoppe. To be considered a "reject," something must be wrong with the wrapper or look of the ice cream sandwich. Alex Callderwood, a production room worker at Casper's for two and a half years said, "The worst rejects are always those that are smashed and mushy looking."

Of course, the shop doesn't sell those.

People from all over come to get Fat Boys. Some people come from Wyoming, Montana and Colorado to stock up on Fat Boys before heading home. People will even call ahead to see if there are any rejects in the Malt Shoppe, before making the trek to Richmond to get ice cream.

"I've had three vans full of blind people come in once to get ice cream," said Seamons.

Rigby remembers her funniest customers and regulars.

"We have everyone from Alzheimer patients, tour buses of people, youth groups, senior citizens on Tuesdays to young children. We've even had wedding proposals and mission calls in the Malt Shoppe."

So why do these people keep coming back? Jake, who refers to himself as a "Fat Boy Ice Cream Sandwich Lover," says it's the local appeal.

"I remember being a kid and sitting in the back yard of my friend's house eating Fat Boy Ice Cream sandwiches."

It's because of such regulars that Casper's Ice Cream is doing well financially. In 1997, Ralph Merrill, Casper Merrill's grandson and co-owner of the company, said they had their best sales of $ 6.8 million. The company is debt free.

Another reason Casper's is rich is because the company doesn't advertise for their products.

"It's all word of mouth," Ralph said. Today, Fat Boys are sold from Alabama to Hawaii. Richmond's little secret is nationwide because of people who love ice cream.

So, how did Squirrelz find the factory in Richmond? After begging Adam for six months, he took her on one condition: she had to be blindfolded. He claimed, "I CAN'T have you telling people where it is. I'd like it to stay a secret."

Well Adam, hear what Squirrelz has to say: "Casper's Ice Cream is around the corner from the Pepperidge Farm factory in Richmond and the address is 11805 N. 200 West. Every one should take a trip up there to make Adam real mad. It may be Cache Valley's little secret, but it doesn't need to stay that way."

The next time Adam goes, maybe all the Cookies and Cream Fat Boys will be gone -- After all, they are his favorite.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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