Getting Personal: Doug and Christy Jarling

Getting Personal: Doug and Christy Jarling

Each week, we offer a Q&A with local personalities. Today, Doug Jarling, 61, and Christy Jarling, 59, chat with The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli. They have been Champaign residents since 1983. For the past 31 years, they have owned and operated Jarling's Custard Cup at 309 W. Kirby Ave., C, serving up frozen desserts and bringing smiles to people's faces.

Q: What's new with you?

A: We are heading into our peak season, and our days are a whirlwind of activity between work and home. It's hard to find a few hours to goof off.

Q: Do you have any changes planned for the 'Cup'?

A: We have been slowly evolving into a 21st-century business as we update our daily operation and become more visible on the Internet and through social media. Our 24-year-old son, Dylan, has been a huge help in moving us forward. And yet, we have to continually strive to provide our customers with quality service and product. In the meantime, we are also trying to plan our exit strategy as we begin dreaming of retirement for ourselves.

Q: With climate change, would you consider keeping the Cup open year round?

A: Perhaps, in a more energy-efficient building, in a second or third location. We have experimented with extending our season (March-November) several times, with less than a positive outcome. We cannot control the weather, and it can really put a damper on biz when there's a foot of snow and howling winds in Illinois.

Q: How many of your customers realize Custard Cup originated in Danville?

A: Many, but we still educate newcomers. The Custard Cup in Danville has been in business since 1949 and is celebrating 65 years at 2507 N. Vermilion St. The Jarling family has owned it since 1969.

Q: What is the most frequently asked question at the Cup?

A: "What, you don't have hot fudge?" Once they try our cold fudge, they usually just want more.

Q: What are your favorite Cup flavors and items?

A: Christy: Lemon. It's so light and refreshing. Either a green river with lemon or a red raspberry sundae made over lemon.

Doug: Vanilla, it's the basis for so many treats. A black and white sundae, made with cold fudge instead of chocolate syrup, topped with peanuts.

Q: How do you come up with flavors?

A: Originally, only vanilla, lemon and chocolate were made daily. Orange was added after the Danville store served it at a fall festival. Then, a few years later, Doug's mom, Dot, brought in strawberry, a flavor she had tried and loved. We opened in Champaign with those five flavors. We then began our flavor of the week program three years ago, after the Danville Cup had success featuring a particular flavor for a weeklong run. Now, we sample new flavors and take suggestions from our customers. Top popular flavors are cappuccino, Georgia peach and cold fudge, but everyone has their own personal favorite.

Q: Do you or any of your Danville relatives plan to open any other Custard Cups?

A: Possibly. We purchased the Custard Cup private-mix recipe from Doug's parents, Dot and Wilmer, in 1994. They felt we would be good guardians of the mix and see that it was always used properly. We have interested parties wanting stores in 30-plus states and numerous countries. If we expand, it will probably be through our son's efforts. We'll just have to see how this develops.

Q: What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour?

A: The biz has made us night owls. During Cup season, bedtime is 12:30 or 1 a.m.

Christy: I'm up between 8:30 and 9. I let the dog out, fix a cup of coffee and peruse The News-Gazette or my computer.

Doug: Not a morning person. Up by 9:30. I shower and get some iced tea. Not a fan of coffee.

Q: What is your greatest achievement or accomplishment?

A: Committing 100 percent of our energy into the biz during its infancy and continuing to keep the Custard Cup open for 31 years with the help of a dedicated management team and crew — and some of the greatest customers in Champaign County.

Q: What do you regard as your most treasured possession?

A: Doug: my 100th anniversary Harley-Davidson, with 80,000 miles of riding adventures.

Christy: memories of my dear late mother, Alice Smith.

Q: Where on Earth are you dying to go?

A: Doug: Tahiti.

Christy: Australia or anywhere with blue seas and salt air.

Q: Tell us something people don't know about you.

A: Doug: I designed and built a VW trike on a shoestring budget in my early 20s. I got it licensed and titled and rode it many years. Although it's disassembled now, perhaps it will rise like a phoenix again.

Christy: Both Doug and I are U.S. Coast Guard certified to crew on a sailboat up to 39 feet in length.

Q: Tell us about your favorite pet.

A: Crown Crest Karma of Kismet was our first purchase as a married couple. Karma was a beautiful blonde Afghan hound, a sight hound who could run like the wind. She moved to Champaign with us at age 10 and left us at age 13. What a character.

Q: What's your favorite sports team?

A: We are nontraditional, our favorite sports team is the Stewart-Haas Racing Team. We're not into ball sports, but we love Indy car racing — Doug just celebrated attending the Indy 500 for 50 years. After Tony Stewart left Indy racing for NASCAR, we began following NASCAR. We both like mechanical technology and fast driving machines.

Q: What would you order for your last meal?

A: Doug: Prime rib and lobster, twice-baked potato and a black and white sundae with cold fudge and peanuts.

Christy: Shrimp cocktail, grilled fish, guacamole and chips and something dark chocolate or a death by chocolate dessert.

Q: If you could be reincarnated, what would you return as?

A: Doug: a pirate on the high seas.

Christy: a landscape designer or a beach bum.

Q: Who are your favorite musicians?

A: We are both classic rock fans.

Doug: Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the like.

Christy: I branch into a few more genres, from Broadway show tunes to alt and indie rock to young bloods coming up in the rock world. I truly despise Auto-Tune.

Q: What's your happiest memory?

A: Our wedding day, Feb. 16, 1974, and the day our son, Dylan, was born.

Q: Name three living people you would invite to a dinner party.

A: Doug; Tony Stewart, Jimmy Buffett, and Will Ferrell in his Ricky Bobby persona. I would serve conch chowder, cheeseburgers and banana splits from the Cup, for all, preferably in paradise.

Christy: Bonnie Raitt, Paul McCartney, Steve Martin. Dinner would be grilled, seafood and steak, salad, au gratin potatoes, wine and spirits, and, of course, a Custard Cup dessert concoction.

Q: What historical figure do you admire most?

A: Christy: Les Paul, the creator of the amplified, electric guitar. Thank you, Les, for the music revolution you sparked.

Q: What's your best piece of advice for others?

A: If you decide to take a job, give 100 percent of yourself, be proud of a job well done and wear a smile.

Q: What was your first real job and how much were you paid?

A: Doug: Working at the Danville Cup at 15. I didn't have a choice. I made about $1 an hour.

Christy: Working at the Danville Kmart as a teen, following in my older sister Janice's footsteps, for $1.60 hourly.

Q: What was a pivotal decision in your career?

A: After finding a used machine capable of running our mix, we chose Champaign for our next store and committed to it 100 percent. The rest is history.

Q: Do you have any regrets?

A: No regrets. Live and learn from mistakes made.

Q: How do you handle stress?

A: Doug: Take a ride in the country on my Harley.

Christy: Jump in a pool of blue water, garden or listen to some great music.


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esotiro2 wrote on June 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Climate change as a driver for keeping Custard Cup open?  Were you here this past winter?