“If you would have asked us six months before we bought the place if we would ever want to own a miniature golf course, we would have said you were crazy,” said Kyla Bartle, co-owner of The Frozen Boulder and Boulder Falls Mini Golf and BatZone.
Having been married just shy of 20 years, Dave and Kyla Bartle said they have always envisioned themselves as being small business owners. The couple said they wanted to own a business that was unique to them — something they could be creative with and make their own.
“The opportunity fell in our lap two years ago to buy this place, and it was a mess,” Kyla said. “It was overgrown, and the water features were disgusting. It was just really bad, and I thought, ‘What in the world have we gotten ourselves into?’”
When deciding to purchase the miniature golf course, they realized the old Muncie Frozen Custard was a part of the package. To start out, Dave and Kyla focused primarily on the miniature golf course and completely revitalized the property so they could make a safe, fun, family-friendly atmosphere for the community, Kyla said.
Because the miniature golf course was almost 21 years old, Dave said, it was a complete wreck and smelled awful. During the first weekend of renovations, Dave and Kyla spent nearly 10 hours scooping sludge out of the ponds.
“When we pulled up here, it was just mud and weeds, and people thought it was closed,” Dave said. “It’s been here for 21 years, and when people drove by, it just looked like a mess. The pond smelled awful.”
All of the rocks and boulders atop Boulder Falls were put in by the Bartles and their team of workers, and the stumps placed sporadically throughout the course were pulled out of a neighboring yard. Amongst the decor are wood-carved sculptures, which were sculpted from two 30-foot redwood trees on the property by a chainsaw sculptor.
With Boulder Falls Mini Golf and BatZone now completely renovated, Dave said the primary goal is to keep improving the property. There are greens on the golf course that need replacing, and the batting cages need a new machine, but Dave said these two additions are very costly, so they are taking their remodels one piece at a time.
After getting Boulder Falls Mini Golf and BatZone up and running, the couple decided they wanted to work on the space where the Frozen Boulder now sits. At the time, Kyla was still working full time, so she didn’t have the time to tackle the other portion of their property.
“We had tried to lease the space at one point to get someone to open something, and it ended up not working out at all,” Kyla said. “Sometimes, I think things happen for a reason because it just kind of gave me that kick in the boot, so to speak, just to do it ourselves.”
The Frozen Boulder is the only establishment in Muncie that serves both Dippin’ Dots and Hawaiian Shaved Ice, which attracts a lot of customers, Dave said. The Frozen Boulder also sells 24 flavors of Ashby’s ice cream, a brand only sold out of Michigan. While the brand can be pricey, Kyla said, it’s offered at The Frozen Boulder because the ice cream has a high cream fat, which bolsters the flavor.
“‘Indiana Pothole’ is a chocolate ice cream, and it has what [Ashby’s] calls ‘car fudge’ throughout it,” Kyla said. “It also has chunks of dark fudge, which they call ‘asphalt,’ so it is really just loaded with chocolate, and people love it. I can hardly keep it in the freezer.”
Because The Frozen Boulder is doing so well, Kyla and Dave said, they are striving to expand their kitchen area so they can offer more menu items, such as coffee and hot concession foods, to stay open all year.
Although there are always challenges when starting a small business, Kyla said, her biggest fear was the unknown. Some of the questions she said she had running through her mind were “Will we do everything right?” and “What if we don’t make the right decisions?” However, because of the connections and relationships they built with other small Muncie businesses, Dave said, they have well surpassed their own initial expectations for The Frozen Boulder and Boulder Falls Mini Golf and BatZone.
“I'm so pleased and happy with how things have been, but I totally give credit to the community on that,” Kyla said. “We put a lot of work into it, and hard work always pays off, but … [the Muncie community is] spreading the word, and it is really, really helping us.”