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New documentary follows Billings baker's journey from from track star to 'Cookie Man'

Jan and Judy Boogman at a booth in Caramel Cookie Waffle
Kay Erickson
Yellowstone Public Radio
Jan and Judy Boogman feature in the new documentary "Cookie Man," documenting Jan's journey from professional Dutch track athlete to Billings cookie baker.

For some 40 years Jan Boogman has been running Caramel Cookie Waffle, a lunch café and bakery in Billings, coming in well before dawn to make stroopwafels — the iconic Dutch cookie.

But before he became a Montana staple, Boogman was a professional track athlete in his native Netherlands. Now, a new documentary by his daughter, Alette Boogman, chronicle's Jan's journey from runner to cookie maker.

Alette tells YPR the idea for "Cookie Man" came to her four years ago after she stopped at the bakery at 4 in the morning and found her father stirring a large pot of caramel.

"He looked at me and said, 'It’s like I woke up 40 year later as cookie baker and I don’t know how I got here,'" Alette remembers. '"Take me with you.'"

Alette and her partner, Dutch filmmaker Thomas Schenk, approached Jan with the proposal, hedging the concept a bit.   

"My dad didn’t really know what we were doing when we were doing it," Alette said. "We told him we would just film a little thing. We did show up with quite a bit of equipment and he thought ’huh, that’s a bit strange."

Jan and wife, Judy, got to see the finished product at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula in February.

"At about half way through I actually started to like the character," Jan said with a laugh. "I forgot I was looking at myself."

Now, 40 years since transitioning from athlete to baker, Jan says it's a journey that's nearing the finish line.

"I turned 70 in February. I’m not young anymore," he said. "I’m not a young athlete, and 70 is a decent age to find a different pace in your life."

As for retirement, Judy says they're not there yet.

"Someone said when you start a business you should also right away figure out how you’re going to end that business," she said. "But we never figured that out."

"Cookie Man" will get its Billings premiere Saturday night at the Babcock Theater at 5 p.m. followed by a Q&A with filmmakers Alette Boogman and Thomas Schenk.

Caramel Cookie Waffle is a financial supporter of YPR.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.