Carrying on a family tradition
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – Margie Schmidt, and her husband, are carrying on a family tradition, not just for Margie’s family, but for many families in the Marshfield area.
As owners of Melody Gardens Restaurant & Skateland, the couple operates one of just over two dozen roller rinks that can be found in the state today.
While roller skating found its start in the 1920s, the Great Depression did much to kill off many of the entertainment venues that provided the leisure time activity; but, the boom of the disco era brought about the resurgence of the recreation.
It was at about that time that Margie’s parents, Alvin and Gladys Brock saw an opportunity.
“There used to be a roller rink at the pavilion down at the park and that closed in the summer of 1973,” Margie recalled. “Then, my dad, that fall of ’73, when he heard it wasn’t going to open back up in ’74, he started researching roller rinks at that point.
“July 1st was groundbreaking. We opened the roller rink Nov. 9th of ’74,” added Margie, who was just seven years old at that time. “I had just turned eight when they opened it.
“It was exciting. We all remember that none of us knew how to roller skate when our parents started. None of us kids had ever been roller skating, so it was exciting and we got to come over here and practice; and I can remember myself not having a clue how to roller skate. I remember coming over here and practicing, trying to figure it out all on our own. We all started from nothing and taught ourselves how to skate.”
Margie and her 15 siblings – four boys and 11 girls – all became instrumental in the business.
“We all grew up here working here, skating here, being part of the business,” she said.
The family had their hands full for the first few years, as families flocked to the center.
“Those first few years were very, very busy, and it was just the roller rink,” Margie added.
In 1980, the Brocks added on an ice cream parlor, which consisted of a couple of booths and a couple of small tables.
“We had a limited menu – hamburgers, hotdogs, very simple easy food that they had on the first menu –then the ice cream of course – banana splits, hot fudge sundaes, and all of that,” she explained.
Ten years later, a restaurant was added on offering full service dining to customers.
In 1993, the Brock’s daughter and son-in-law, Deb and Dan Dietel began purchasing the business.
“Mom and dad semi-retired, I guess, and then they fully retired in ’98,” Margie recalled.
In 1996, Melody Gardens began making their own ice cream.
“Debbie started it and (Dennis) took over,” Margie said. “We (now) have 80 plus different recipes. We have 21 flavors out there at one time.”
In Sept. 2012, Margie and Dennis purchased the business. Margie had spent her entire life working in the business after going to school for accounting.
First employed by her parents and then her sister, while raising their three children, Margie and her husband were ready for the next step and took over the family business.
The Schmidts continue their dedication to the family business, knowing not only what it means to the families who visit, but to the community it has created within itself – a community that has become an extension of their family.
“There are a few of us that met our spouses here. It’s just the friends that we’ve met over the years, the people that we’ve met. I think any of my siblings would feel the same. It’s just the amount of people that we’ve met here over the years and know because of this place,” explained Margie.
Margie says that five of the 16 siblings met their spouses at the business.
“I think when Dennis and I are ready to be done that somebody in the family – nieces and nephews – I do think that somebody in the family will step up and look into taking it over,” she said. “I do have one nephew, he is seven or eight now, and he says that he is going to own this place some day. He tells his mom that.
“I’m not even close to thinking about it. I am still having too much fun.”
Dennis and Margie still lace up their skates and hit the floor with their customers every weekend.