When the last soup and sandwich special is served Tuesday, it will mark the end of a 34-year-run for Boo Boo’s Food Shop.
Owner Sherry Gould announced last month via the Arlington eatery’s Facebook page that she would not renew her lease and that she planned to hang up her apron at year’s end.
From her loyal customers a collective “boo hoo” over Boo Boo’s departure from the lunch scene may be heard. Many of Gould’s customers began frequenting the store with their parents and now as adults bring their own children to enjoy the food.
“I call them ‘Boo Babies,’ ” Gould said with a laugh, adding that there are even some third-generation customers now. “I never dreamed that coming here would become a family tradition.”
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Gould said business has been brisk since the announcement. “I just hope the word has spread, because I definitely want to have the chance to see everyone before we close,” she said.
Gould was asked to take over what started as a frozen yogurt shop in 1980 with three years remaining on the lease. Starting almost from scratch, Gould supervised the installation of a kitchen.
“I remember sitting on my dining room floor trying to put ideas together on what I wanted to do with the shop,” she said.
Alice’s Restaurant, a popular California eatery, had a big influence. Garnishing sandwiches with sprouts and spinach leaves, for example, was regular fare on the West Coast but was uncommon in this area in the ’80s, and customers reacted well when she put this new twist on sandwiches.
Her signature side dish of sliced fresh carrot chips was an idea she got from a Fort Worth restaurant.
Most of the food served at Boo Boo’s is made from scratch. The most popular sandwich is chicken salad, and the bestselling soup is cheese broccoli. Homemade gazpacho, along with chicken and egg noodle, mushroom, vegetable and potato soups, are all made fresh. Chili and Frito pie are popular during cold snaps.
“Ninety percent of the recipes I use in the store came from Mildred Jinks,” a close family friend and Arlington real estate agent who died last year, Gould said.
The secrets to her success, Gould said, include a simple business model and devoted patrons.
“My menu has changed very little over the years,” she said. “I’ve relied on word of mouth because there’s really been no budget for advertising or time for special promotions. It’s our loyal customers that have kept things going.”
A dedicated staff has also been a major factor in Boo Boo’s longevity.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my fantastic employees, who are like family to me,” Gould said. “Their work ethic and loyalty are key. They have my back.”
They, in turn, know she is there for them. Longtime employee Linda Smith, who has been battling illness and undergoing radiation treatment, said Gould has brought her food and deposited her checks when she was too weak to get out.
Smith, hired after responding to a help-wanted sign more than 23 years ago, called Gould “one in a million.”
“Sherry and the [customers] make this is a great place to work,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of jobs, but I’ve never had a boss that cares the way Sherry does. You don’t find that in bosses very often.”
Boo Boo’s is the favorite weekday lunch spot for longtime regulars George and Margaret Muller. He’s tried everything on the menu; she sticks with the chicken salad.
“We go there every day as an outing for my wife, who can’t get out much anymore,” George Muller said. “We love it there because it’s like a family. We love the food, and it’s our noontime hangout.”
What will they do for lunch after Boo Boo’s closes? “I think if everyone is like me, they will probably starve to death,” Muller said with a chuckle.
Persis Forster and daughter Persis Ann are also regulars who say they have lunched at Boo Boo’s at least two or three times a week for the past 25 years or so. “What I love besides the food and the iced cookies is that I see someone I know almost every time I go,” said the younger Forster.
More time for family
Gould is mother of the late Clay Gould, beloved University of Texas at Arlington baseball coach who died in 2001 from colon cancer, and Robyn Cox, who lives in San Antonio and works at Sea World managing the dolphin shows.
Both worked at the store from time to time during their high school years. “If nothing else, it served as an incentive to them to be sure to get a college education,” Gould joked.
Gould says she plans to seek other employment. But before the next chapter of her career begins, she and Cox will wrap things up in the shop and sell the fixtures and furniture. She has had a number of potential buyers approach her. If something pans out with a buyer, it’s possible a new owner would want the contents of the store.
After decades of working six-day weeks, including every Sunday prepping food for the coming Monday, Gould hopes her next job will enable her to spend more time with 13-year old granddaughter Logan who lives in Dallas and grandsons Clay, 5, and Carson, 8 months, who live in San Antonio.
With no special plans for a big finale, the last day will feature the regular Tuesday soup, chicken and egg noodle, and will be business as usual, Gould said.
A remark from north Arlington resident Joyce Kahler, who stopped by to wish Gould well, no doubt sums up what many others feel: “You’ve made a lot of people happy over the years.”