After months of anxious anticipation, Bootsie’s restaurant, bakery and general store in Waterloo opened to the public on Wednesday.
The establishment first got approval from the Waterloo City Council in March 2017, but the idea had been gestating in the minds of its owners for years before that.
“It really started as a vision that Dave (Spalding) had,” co-owner Jim Smugala said. “As it all came together, we all kind of chimed in and made it happen to get it where it is.”
The owners – Dave and Penny Spalding, Jerry and Tasha Sickmeier and Jim and Rita Smugala – are friends who also run a business in St. Louis that builds and renovates houses.
After Dave had the idea, he and Penny brought it to their partners, knowing they work well together and complement each other.
“We all thought it would be a good fit for all of us to work together again because we’ve done so well with the other project,” Dave said. “Jim has some restaurant experience. Jerry is in the construction business.”
The Smugalas own pizza restaurants in Missouri; Jerry Sickmeier runs his own construction business.
That diverse expertise has helped as they have prepared the restaurant, which is named for Dave’s grandmother, Lydia Schlesing. Her grandchildren knew Lydia by another name. They called her “Grandma Bootsie” because her name was too difficult for them to pronounce and she had a dog named Bootsie.
Schlesing was a German immigrant who came to the country in 1906 at the age of 4. Her family owned and operated a convenience store in South St. Louis that also sold baked goods.
Schlesing loved to bake, so when she died she left many recipes behind.
At the restaurant that bears her nickname, those recipes make up a large portion of the menu.
Dave originally wanted to open a standalone bakery, but thought it would be more viable to open a bakery, restaurant and general store under one roof.
Although the idea started as Dave’s, through years of planning it has become the group’s vision.
“When we get together, if one person can’t think of what we want to do, another person comes up with an idea and then we run with it,” Dave explained. “We all play off of each other. By no means is anything in the building just one person’s idea.”
That collaboration was facilitated by the fact the establishment began from the literal ground up.
The location, 1365 N. Illinois Route 3, is the former home of the George Weber Chevrolet dealership lot. The group bought the property in February 2017 when it was just an empty lot.
Once construction began, a contractor erected the building. Then, much of the work was done by hand.
“Every piece of wood we sent through the sander,” Jerry said. “We hung it. We stained it. We polyed it. Everything we did inside is by hand. We did all the outside, too, except roof.”
The group also used local, union workers for the construction whenever possible.
The care that went into constructing the building prolonged the project, but all the owners agreed it was worth it.
“It took longer because everything was handcrafted,” Dave said. “We wanted to make sure we paid attention to detail and I think it shows.”
The details are also important in Bootsie’s kitchen. The restaurant serves a variety of family comfort food such as biscuits and gravy, numerous kinds of sandwiches and fried chicken.
The restaurant will also offer steak for those who want a fancier dish.
Dave said the owners all love steak, so they guaranteed it was of exceptional quality.
Additionally, the full-service bakery will offer several sweet options like doughnuts, cakes, muffins and ice cream.
Dave said the food provides one of the main reasons to come to Bootsie’s. Most of the restaurant’s food and all bakery items are made from scratch.
“A lot of businesses just don’t do that anymore because of cost,” Dave said. “Will we be the cheapest? Maybe not, but we’re the best. You’re going to eat here and you’re going to know why it cost a few pennies more than the other guy.”
“It’s going to be like going to mom’s or grandma’s,” Penny added.
The general store will be another draw, as it will offer unique items not found in chain stores.
“We don’t want to compete with the Walmarts, the Targets and things like that,” Penny said. “We want people to come here because they want that different item.”
Bootsie’s will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
It will offer dine-in, carry-out and catering services.
Bootsie’s will host a formal grand opening in the early fall.
For more information, visit eatatbootsies.com or call 939-0124.