When Renee Westgate accepted the position as Call Hall’s dairy sales manager in 1992, she never anticipated it would be a game changer in her running of odd jobs.
Westgate graduated from high school in 1975. By 1977 she was working full time, taking classes here and there when she could accommodate one in her work schedule.
“I don’t have my degree yet, I’m still a junior in college,” said the 55-year-old K-State employee. “I just don’t know what I want to be when I grow up; that’s my problem.”
As a child, her family owned milk cows, cattle, chickens and pigs. They consumed the majority of their own products but sold what they could, mainly milk and eggs. Even though she has worked a wide variety of jobs in the last 36 years, each has related to animals or food in some way, shape or form; whether it was working at a dairy, chicken hatchery or at Derby Dining Hall.
“I was raised around animals and I really like people; this job combines the two and that is why I like it,” Westgate said.
Before her employment at K-State, Westgate had never held a job for more than 10 years. She partially attributes her love for this job to the common bonds she shares with the farm kids who study animal nutrition, graduate students and animal science majors, and with whom she interacts on a daily basis.
A normal day for Westgate starts at 7:30 a.m. with one or two students making breakfast in the dairy bar, which opens at 8.
“We get the older general public who come in early to buy their milk, cheese and eggs,” Westgate said.
Westgate sees many regulars who start out their day with breakfast at Call Hall.
By the noon hour, the breakfast takers turn to customers looking for BBQ beef or steaks prepared by the K-State meat lab. The lunch hour also brings customers with a sweet tooth looking for a scoop of one of the 25 flavors Call Hall offers in half gallons at a time, 42 flavors in all.
“Since we’re a small and homey store, we get a lot of people who feel like they’re a part of our family,” Westgate said. “People will call and ask, ‘do you have this in the cabinet today?’ or ‘I don’t want to come over if you don’t have my favorite today’ which is a nice feeling.”
Call Hall sells milk; cheese; eggs, including regular and free range; 42 flavors of ice cream; meats, including lamb, pork, beef and goat; and flour, in 5- and 50-pound bags.
Westgate very much enjoys working and interacting with students and customers daily.
“A lot of people who come in are K-State graduates,” Westgate said. “If you talk to alumni, this is the place they remember … the dairy bar and our ice cream.”
After the dairy bar changed its hours to be open on Saturdays, the customer crowd changed, taking in many K-State football fans as well.
“People say all the time ‘we’re so happy you’re open on Saturdays because we missed this place’ or ‘when I went to school here one scoop of ice cream was 25 cents,’” Westgate said.
She pointed out that although a single scoop is now $2.55 the only flavors they had back then were vanilla and chocolate. Vanilla is still the most popular flavor sold, but chocolate has been replaced as a favorite by the university’s espresso-flavored ice cream.
Coming to the dairy bar has become a tradition for many K-State families who now bring their kids or grandkids in to get an ice cream cone.
Westgate has become a part of numerous families’ lives though the shared appreciation and relationships built around K-State’s ice cream. She remembers one family in particular, watching the children grow up, go to school and get married. She even remembers the mother’s order: a chocolate chip cool cat split into two cups.
There used to be an elderly gentleman who would come in at the same time on the same day every week. By the time he would get through the door, Westgate and her employees would have a vanilla cake-cone ready for him.
“His order never changed,” Westgate said. “It was a sad day when he stopped coming in…we knew what that meant.”
Westgate’s current lifestyle keeps her from committing to classroom courses but she has thrown around the idea of taking online classes to finish her degree.
Until she makes a decision, her uncertainty about what she wants to be when she grows up hasn’t discouraged her from enjoying what she does at the dairy bar.
“People make us part of their routine,” Westgate said. “I love becoming a part of their traditions.”