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Displaced Lake Charles business now making ice cream at LSU

Posted at 2:37 PM, Sep 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-27 15:37:14-04

BY Olivia McClure, LSU Ag Center Communications

Soon after Nick Villaume opened a store selling popsicles in Lake Charles a few years ago, he decided he wanted to add ice cream to his offerings — but he didn’t know how to make it.

He reached out to Chuck Boeneke, an LSU AgCenter dairy science professor and manager of the Dairy Store, who agreed to give Villaume lessons. With the expanded menu, Villaume’s Boombox Popsicles and Ice Cream proved a hit with local customers.

Earlier this year, Boombox expanded again — this time with a franchise opening in Baton Rouge and plans in the works for another Lake Charles location. But 2020 has also brought challenges for many business owners, including Villaume — who is now temporarily working out of the AgCenter creamery on the LSU campus.

“COVID hit, and then the hurricane hit Lake Charles,” Villaume said, referring to Hurricane Laura, which caused extensive damage to the area last month. “Our facility was kind of dead in the water because we had no power and we had no water. So I called up Gaye (Sandoz, director of the AgCenter Food Incubator) and Chuck Boeneke and said, ‘Hey, can we temporarily come and produce out of your facility?’ And of course the Dairy Store is closed this fall, so Chuck’s like, ‘Yeah, come on over.’ ”

Last week, Villaume began using the creamery in the Dairy Science building as a client of the AgCenter Food Incubator. He has made about 1,500 popsicles there already to supply the Baton Rouge store. He plans to start making ice cream again soon, too.

“We’re catching up on inventory,” he said. “It’s nice — a big relief.”

The Lake Charles Boombox store is currently closed. Villaume lost a freezer full of popsicles to Laura, but was able to save a one-month supply of ice cream in a freezer truck that he plugged in at his in-laws’ home in Baton Rouge. He has since been able to relocate that stash to the creamery at LSU.

“The Food Incubator and Innovative Technical Services strives to be a full-service facility encompassing all services needed for food startups as well as established food companies in Louisiana,” said Sandoz. “In this case, the incubator was able to provide an emergency dairy production facility due to Hurricane Laura thanks to Dr. Boeneke.”

“This has been a lifesaver for us,” Villaume said.

It also has allowed him to reconnect with his former teacher.

When Boombox first opened, “there was no ice cream in Lake Charles. We didn’t have any small-batch, artisan ice cream,” Villaume said. Boeneke’s instruction was instrumental in helping Boombox fill that void in the Lake Charles market.

“It was a great educational experience,” Villaume recalled. “I learned a lot about the texture of ice cream and what makes ice cream high quality versus low quality.”