New ice cream, coffee shop in New Boston is nod to local history | News

New ice cream, coffee shop in New Boston is nod to local history | News

A new business that opened last week in New Boston should bring smiles to the faces of ice cream lovers, coffee aficionados and those who value local history.

Doc’s Ice Cream & Coffee not only continues a 35-year tradition of selling ice cream out of the same location, it also harkens back to the days when Joseph Richert served as Huron Township’s country doctor.

The ice cream and coffee shop, 37337 Huron River Drive, is named after a man that most people in the township have fond memories of, especially the “old timers.” Dr. Rickert served Huron Township families for over 45 years.

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Jessica Hurlston, “Doc” Richert’s granddaughter, welcomes customers to Doc’s Ice Cream & Coffee on the first day of its opening.

According to his son, Jack Richert, his father grew up in Hemlock, an unincorporated community in Saginaw County.

“After graduating from medical school in Missouri, Doc followed his brother, Rev. Daniel Richert, to the lovely town of New Boston, where the town doctor was soon retiring,” he said. “This is where Doc and his ever-present wife, Jean, set up shop in the heart of the town, in the spring of 1960.”

Joseph Richert practiced as an old-school family doctor. He did everything from delivering babies to making house calls. According to his son, the doctor made his round of house calls on Thursday afternoons.

The doctor’s wife, Jean, also embarked on a career that focused on restoring health. She founded Apple Tree Lane Convalescent Center in 1974, an organization known today as Special Tree Rehabilitation System.

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Similar to throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game, Joseph Richert dishes out the first scoop of ice cream to officially open Doc’s Ice Cream & Coffee in New Boston.

Special Tree helps clients and their families with the physical and emotional challenges associated with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. It has grown to more than 30 locations in seven Michigan counties and employs over 850 people.

Although the company has expanded over the years and branched out to other parts of Michigan, Joseph and Jean Richert, along with their six children and grandchildren, have remained pillars of the Huron Township community, including the Huron School District. Family members have served on the Planning Commission, the Board of Education, the local Development Finance Authority, as well as many other boards and commissions in Huron Township.

When the Richert family heard that a venerable ice cream shop on Huron River Drive was closing a couple of years ago, they knew it presented an opportunity for them.

Barbara Gibbs, who owned Gibbs Sweet Station for 35 years, announced she was retiring and moving out of state. The closure of the Waltz Road Bridge for two years prompted Gibbs to shut down a year earlier than she had anticipated, due to a lack of customers.

As luck would have it, Gibbs was approached by a person interested in purchasing her building.

In a 2019 interview, Gibbs told The News-Herald that the person who bought the building looked at it one day and bought it on that very same day. She said the buyer planned to continue offering ice cream, as well as “some other things.”

As it turned out, that buyer was Jack Richert. In addition to selling ice cream, Gibbs Sweet Station was full of antiques that hung on the walls, giving the ice cream shop a nostalgic feel.

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Danna Hall (left) and Cortney Richert, Joseph Richert’s granddaughter, prepare for the first day of business for Doc’s Ice Cream & Coffee.

Richert didn’t have any use for all the antiques and signs Gibbs had throughout the building, but was interested in continuing to sell ice cream.

“Everyone close to Doc knows about his affinity for sweets, especially ice cream,” Richert said. “When the family acquired the iconic local landmark in 2019, we wanted to continue the solid tradition of the Gibbs family. We naturally renamed it to ‘Doc’s’ because of Doc’s true love for ice cream and the beautiful town his children and grandchildren grew up in.”

Ironically, the last year Gibbs Sweet Station was in business was shortened due to the bridge closure, and the first year of Doc’s Ice Cream & Coffee was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the delay gave the Richerts extra time to renovate and modernize the building. Richert said Gibbs Sweet Station had no public restroom and was a cash-only operation.

With things slowly getting back to normal with the reopening of indoor dining establishments, the family figured the time was right to introduce Doc’s Ice Cream & Coffee to the public.

The Richerts held a couple of “soft opening” events with family and friends, and one for township officials and dignitaries, but officially opened to the public on Feb. 18. Although “Doc” retired in 2005, he gladly came out of retirement to open the shop by dishing out the first scoop of ice cream.

Doc’s offers 16 rotating flavors of Guernsey ice cream, as well as coffee, espresso, hot chocolate and tea. They also make their own waffle cones.

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State Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) presents a tribute from the state of Michigan congratulating the Richert family upon opening a new ice cream and coffee shop in New Boston. Accepting the tribute is General Manager Jackie Hobbins, Joseph Richert’s daughter; and Joe Richert, his grandson.

State Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) stopped by to congratulate the family and to present them with a special tribute from the state of Michigan.

“Through their hard work and perseverance, Doc’s Ice Cream & Coffee is sure to be a wonderful addition to our residents here in Huron Township and beyond,” the tribute states. “Locally owned businesses not only provide our community with excellent service, but they serve to invest in our neighborhoods and offer the comfort that only our neighbors could provide. Now more than ever, the Richert family is working for our community in more ways than one, providing our residents with needed employment opportunities, as well as ensuring commitment to excellent service. The Richert family’s long involvement serving Huron Township and its people only further proves that this establishment will be a genuine treat for us all.”

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