Andy Kuntz, CEO and owner of Andy’s Frozen Custard (left) and La Grange Park Mayor Jim Discipio (right) cheer as store manager Ruben Rodriguez cuts the grand-opening ribbon. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Andy Kuntz, CEO and owner of Andy’s Frozen Custard (left) and La Grange Park Mayor Jim Discipio (right) cheer as store manager Ruben Rodriguez cuts the grand-opening ribbon. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Newest Andy’s Frozen Custard gets a warm welcome in La Grange Park

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Ruben Rodriguez, who manages Andy’s Frozen Custard in La Grange Park and Countryside, prepares a tasty treat.

By Steve Metsch

On a chilly gray winter day, about 200 people patiently waited outside in the cold to purchase $2 frozen custard sundaes.

Why the fascination with a frozen concoction on a day better suited for hot chocolate?

They simply love Andy’s Frozen Custard, the newest addition to La Grange Park’s business community.

The chain, which started in 1986 and has grown to 130 sites nationwide, held a grand opening on March 16 for its 15th location in Illinois at 531 N. La Grange Road.

Located on busy La Grange Road and sitting near florist, dental office and the La Grange Park Public Library – with Memorial Park next door to the east – the location promises to sell plenty of frozen custard, officials said.

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Andy Kuntz is elated to open his 15th store in Illinois on La Grange Road in La Grange Park.

Business has been steady since the soft opening in January, district manager Marcin Polanco said.

With Andy’s offering a “family friendly business in a family friendly community,” La Grange Park Mayor Jim Discipio expects big crowds, especially during warm summer months.

He and others noted the big crowds who for the past seven years have been packing into the nearest Andy’s, just 2.7 miles to the south at 5745 S. La Grange Road in Countryside.

One woman who attended the La Grange grand opening said she once waited 90 minutes at Countryside store. Others talked about the long line of cars down 58th Street, waiting to use the drive-up lane.

Andy Kuntz, CEO and owner of Andy’s Frozen Custard, said those long waits and big crowds were one reason why he decided to open in La Grange Park.

“We were strategically trying to take a little pressure off Countryside,” he said.

Kuntz said his mother Carol and late father John started the Andy’s chain in Osage Beach, Missouri, modeling it on Leon’s Frozen Custard, which started in 1942 in Milwaukee.

Giving a tour of the new place, which unlike Countryside has no indoor seating, Polanco said, “We’re really proud of our custard.”

He noted that company policy forbids custard from being sold if its more than one hour old. Given the hungry crowds, that’s seldom an issue.

“We can tell a difference when its 45 minutes old. For us, that’s a big deal,” Polanco, 28, of Bolingbrook, said.

Ruben Rodriguez, 25, of Oak Lawn, general manager of the La Grange Park and Countryside stores, thinks both will succeed.

“We fielded complaints left and right. ‘I can’t get out of my apartment complex’,” he said of the Countryside location.

“This has definitely helped out,” Rodriguez said. “People bounce back and forth.”

There are 18 jobs in La Grange Park, 22 in Countryside. That will likely increase in the summer, he said.

The popularity is because of fresh ingredients. “The freshness makes us different,” Rodriguez said.

The chain’s growth has been explosive.

“When we opened our first store in the Chicago area in 2006 in Bolingbrook, we had 11 stores total. Now we have 130,” Kuntz said.

The pandemic was actually good for the chain.

“People stayed home, used the drive-thru. This was a little escape for them,” Kuntz said.

Frozen custard is popular because “everyone enjoys a frozen dessert. Ice cream has been around for hundreds of years.”

“Other than some local mom-and-pop shops, in my opinion, there’s no Starbucks of frozen desserts. There’s Dairy Queen, that kind of stuff. To me, (Andy’s) fills a lot of niches,” Kuntz said.

“The crazier the world gets, people take their dog and kids, they come to Andy’s, sit on a bench, have a treat and let things go by for a bit,” Kuntz said.

Tish Murphy, 77, of Broadview, and boyfriend Bill Jones, 87, of Brookfield, were among those waiting in line.

“It’s my favorite place. Oh, my, gosh, I love Andy’s. I love the vanilla. It’s so creamy and harder than some of the other frozen custards. It has such a good taste,” Murphy said.

While Jones is not as big a fan, he does enjoy “a little vanilla.”

“Don’t let my doctor see this,” he added with a wink.

Bill Selonick, a real estate broker for WSS Real Estate Service in Evanston, has worked with Kuntz for the past 15 years.

The site will be a winner for many reasons, he said.

“It’s a confluence of the ballfields, the draw of the grocery store and the library. It’s going to meet its promise. In the evenings, where there are (outdoor) concerts (in the park) and, of course, the traffic. It’s a busy road. And it’s a lovely community filled with children,” Selonick said.

Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Kuntz thanked called in workers from other Andy’s locations in the area to help with the grand opening.

“Chicago is very important to us. It’s one of our largest markets,” he said.

About 75 percent of the products used in Chicago area stores are from local suppliers, he said.

“We’re still growing. We want to continue to be the treat of choice for Chicagoland. We have at least two more stores coming,” Kuntz said to applause.

The addition of Andy’s “makes La Grange Park a destination,” said Nancy Cummings, executive director of the La Grange Business Association.

“Anything that’s a strong business on La Grange Road ultimately benefits La Grange as well,” Cummings said. “We’re excited.”

Discipio said La Grange Park tried for “about 10, 12 years” to find a business to fill the vacant land where a pancake restaurant once stood. Culver’s and Starbucks were suitors, he said.

“They were both concerned about ingress and egress,” Discipio said. “Andy’s had the perfect solution by having just a drive-thru and walk-up. So far, so good.”

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Customers line up for $2 sundaes at the March 16 grand opening of Andy’s Frozen Custard in La Grange Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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