Editor’s note: after a period of uncertainty, Jarling’s Custard Cup was sold in 2016 and has been operated by that group ever since. It celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2018. The below article was written in 2015.
By Jennifer Newell
First jobs can easily be forgotten, however, mine was and always will be unforgettable. I started working at Jarling’s Custard Cup in Champaign at age 15; Christy Jarling remembered me from coming in as a child, and hired me on the spot.
Working in a busy summer night treat destination, I learned how to deal with customers, create all sorts of frozen custard concoctions and clean up all types of messes. My favorite part was taking long orders because at Custard Cup employees are required to memorize all orders, no matter the length, and that was quite a challenge!
The most memorable day was the day I served Tom Hanks. Yes, that Tom Hanks. I was covering a shift for a friend and it was a slow afternoon. I looked up and Tom Hanks entered with his family. No one I was working with noticed, so I turned around and mouthed, ‘that’s Tom Hanks.’ Of course I promptly forgot the order and had to go back to ask him again. It was then that Tom Hanks said, “You are a Custard Cup employee, you can do this.” I accepted his encouragement and completed the task.
As you can imagine the story and sighting of Mr. Hanks quickly spread throughout Champaign-Urbana (not much else going on I suspect). It became a story I told at parties and a fun fact only certain people knew about me.
This week our community learned that Doug and Christy Jarling are seeking to sell their beloved business.
People all over the community started passing this information around through social media. Past customers, employees and even Tom Hanks (via Twitter!) have expressed their desire for the right new owner to come forward.
Champaign, IL! Jarling’s Custard Cup 4 Sale! Doug and Christy are selling! The recipe alone is worth $$$$$$! Get o… http://t.co/2AKEYHhzBw
— Tom Hanks (@tomhanks) March 12, 2015
Jarling’s Custard Cup is more than a frozen custard shop, it is a Champaign-Urbana institution whose product and location links town and gown. For many, it represents memories of first ice cream bites, a last stop before leaving our community, and even an unforgettable first job.
Jennifer Newell is a townie, wife, mommy, and devoted Chambanamom. She lives in Savoy with her family and two cats.