As far as sweet treats are concerned, there are few things as totally satisfying as fresh frozen custard made according to the original recipe of Chuck Whitman from Granville, Ohio. Unless, of course, you consider the vast variety of decadent toppings, from pineapple and shaved coconut to chocolate chip cookies and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, available at Whit’s Frozen Custard.
A glimpse into the history available on the Whit’s website details how “Chuck Whitman, working in his father’s food service business, spent 21 years calling on restaurants, including popular soft-serve businesses throughout the Midwest. During this time, he also purchased an endless array of ice cream ingredients, and worked at a dairy manufacturing plant. His knowledge and affinity for the virtues of frozen custard grew over those years, and he steadily explored perfecting a frozen custard recipe while sourcing supplies.”
The end of one of the region’s coldest and snowiest winters in years marked the beginning of Whit’s Frozen Custard, which first opened in Granville on March 3, 2003. Many residents of Granville were unfamiliar with the frozen concoction and regarded it as a passing trend. However, since then Whit’s opened over 40 locations throughout Ohio. Family friends Michael and Jessica McKinley were the first investors of the small, family-owned franchise to take Whit’s Frozen Custard beyond the Ohio state line.
The McKinleys operate four Whit’s Frozen Custard stores throughout Jacksonville. The Atlantic Beach store was the first to open in April, 2014, welcoming beachgoers seeking respite from the sun with a chilled treat. They also run stores in Jacksonville Beach, Mandarin, and the most recent offering in Avondale.
“Frozen custard is considered a premium ice cream. It’s got less air blended into it. The blending process is slower and more labor intensive. It puts less air in the product which is what gives it the super creamy and dense texture,” says Jessica McKinley. “Frozen custard is also prepared fresh daily. A lot of times ice cream is manufactured at a facility and shipped somewhere, so you might not get to the end product for a few months, whereas ours is made fresh every day in the store.”
Frozen custard is served at a warmer 26 degrees while conventional ice cream is typically served at 16 degrees. “When it’s colder it doesn’t allow you to enjoy the flavor. With custard served a little warmer, it doesn’t freeze your taste buds,” McKinley says.
Whit’s frozen custard is crafted using the highest quality ingredients from fresh cream and pasteurized eggs to the premium chocolates, fruit toppings and fresh roasted nuts. The most popular flavors include the sea salt caramel, sometimes including generous chunks of Heath Bars, Snickers or brownie bites and the black raspberry chip.
“Every single day there is a new flavor that rotates. We have different mix-ins that we can blend and make your own flavor combination. I’ve seen people mix nine different toppings, anything from fruits and nuts to candies,” says McKinley. “People like to create and try different things. Some are more of a purist with their custard. Other people want five different toppings in every bite.”
Frozen custard recipes date back to the early 1900s, but the first commercial frozen custard machine wasn’t invented until the 1920s. It is said that the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago popularized frozen custard and by 1940, frozen custard stands were located all over the East and Midwest of the United States.
The McKinley family is proud to share its Midwestern custard legacy with the customers, whose suggestions contribute to the monthly flavor calendars. “We interact a lot with our customers on Instagram and Facebook and in the store,” says McKinley. “We have about 350 total recipes, so we try and incorporate as many flavor combinations as we can and the ones that are requested the most.”