Meadville Tribune

Local News

April 2, 2009

Hank's opening marks family business's 58th year

Ryan Hild’s parents suggest he not mess with success — and he doesn’t plan to do so.

“We’ve been successful this long, there’s no reason to change,” said Hild, 32, the new owner of Hank’s Frozen Custard on the Conneaut Lake Road which officially opens today for its 58th season.

With the new season, ownership of the local icon officially has passed to the younger Hild who is now the third-generation of the Hild family to own and operate Hank’s. It was started by his grandparents, Ernest and Marguerite Hild in 1952. Ryan’s parents, Rick and Linda Hild, took over running the business in 1980.

Success is based on offering a consistent, quality product, according to Hild. It’s what customers have come to expect, he said.

The heart and soul of the business are the four 62-year-old Electro Freeze machines that churn out the sweet, creamy-smooth frozen custard.

While improvements have been made to their cooling units over the years — switching from water-cooled to air-cooled — their internal mixing paddle components remain the same as they did six decades ago.

Each machine has to be watched constantly by Hild, as they can be temperamental when running.

Frozen custard mix — a dairy product mix which has a high content of butterfat (a minimum of 10 percent) and egg yolk (1.5 percent) — is gravity-fed into a machine. The barrel of the machine is refrigerated so the custard

freezes to the inside of the barrel. The frozen custard is scraped off and pushed forward by a set of steel paddles and blades called an agitator. The custard leaves the barrel and falls into a frozen can for serving.

But, with too little mix added, there are loud “clanks” as the machine runs noisily, freezing to a halt before it can produce frozen custard. Too much mix, and the product comes out still in liquid form — not having a chance to freeze.

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