Hank's Frozen Custard was opened on this site on June 4, 1952 by Marguerite (Marg) and Ernest (Ernie) Hild. That day they took in $4.05. The name "Hank's" came from Marg's father Henry, whose nickname was Hank. Five years earlier, in 1947, Hank had opened Hank's Frozen Custard in New Brighton, PA, and it was doing quite well. Since Ernie was looking for a new job, Henry persuaded Marg and Ernie to open their own stand. Hank insisted that if they were going to open their own stand, they had to open it somewhere else because he didn't want them competing with him. To make a long story short, they ended up here. Even then, many people from the Pittsburgh and Beaver Valley areas came to this area in the summer. Hank offered to let Marg and Ernie use the name "Hank's", hoping that the name would be recognized, and it would help Marg and Ernie to establish the business successfully. Hank himself never worked here and to this day no one named Hank ever has. Other than the family relationship, the two businesses were never connected, and have always been run independently of each other. The Hank's in New Brighton is still in operation under that name, but it is no longer owned by the same family.
Marg and Ernie ran this business until 1975. During that time all three of their children, Peg, Judy and Rick, worked here and attended school in Meadville. In 1975 Rick returned to help run the business. At the time it was supposed to be only temporary, however on January 1, 1980, Ernie and Marg retired and Rick and his wife, Linda, leased the business. In 1985 Rick and Linda bought the business and continued to run it until January of 2000. Both of their children, Christie and Ryan, worked here while attending school in Meadville. Sadly, Ernie passed away suddenly in 1997 at the age of 80. Marg is in good health, but says her age is none of your business. Ryan graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College in 1999 and joined the business as a partner in 2000, becoming the third generation to be involved. Rick is now semi-retired, but Linda says we'll have to carry her out with her sneakers on. On January 1, 2007 Ryan began the process of buying Rick and Linda out and became the sole owner of Hank's.
A common misconception about the family is that we relocate to Florida in the winter. The overlapping of the school year and the custard season makes anything more than a vacation there impossible. None of us has ever owned a house or business anywhere other than right here.
The machines we use to make the custard are the original ones bought by Ernie in 1952 when he opened the business. They were purchased used, and were manufactured somewhere between 1947 and 1950. The reason so few places still use this type machine is that they are very difficult to run. They cannot be started and left alone, or they can literally self-destruct. An operator must be within earshot of them whenever they are running, and that is why the person behind the machines does not serve customers. When a machine starts making noise, it must be attended to immediately.
Finally, Hank's is NOT for sale. Although this rumor circulates from time to time, there has never been any truth to it. We expect the business to remain in the family for many, many years to come.
Henry (Hank) and Besse Grosshans
Hild family around 1957. Clockwise from left: Peggy, Ernie, Marg, Judy, and Rick
Hank's Frozen Custard sometime in the 1960's
This is what the Hank's building looked like when Ernie and Marg first bought it in the spring of 1952. It was originally a produce stand and was unfinished on the inside.
Opening day June 4, 1952. Sales that day were $4.05.
Our first menu
The original root beer barrel the has been here since opening day in 1952. It still works!