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'Die-hard' fans brave frigid wind chills as Ollie's Frozen Custard opens in Sycamore

'Die-hard' fans brave frigid wind chills at Sycamore institution

SYCAMORE – Luis Ramirez and Dave Fowler stood outside Ollie’s Frozen Custard about 1 p.m. Wednesday for the shop’s sweet treats during its first day of the season.

Fowler said they’ve come to Ollie’s on opening day for the past five years.

“No matter what the weather is, we’re here,” Fowler said. He remembered one year people stood in line during a blizzard to get the custard. “There were some die-hards that were here. It’s part of the experience.”

The cold winter weather – it was 23 degrees with a wind chill of 5 below zero – wasn’t a deterrent. Owner Valerie Cranden said the shop’s business, which runs from late February until the first week of November, is “weather-driven.”

With any luck, Cranden’s right about the timing of the shop’s opening.

“They say spring’s coming when Ollie’s opens up,” she said. “Doesn’t matter what the groundhog says.”

For the time being, people will have to dress warmly while they wait for their frozen custard.

Ramirez said it’s tradition to come to Ollie’s on the first day. They weren’t the only ones.

Ollie’s opened Wednesday to a short line of customers out front at 11:15 a.m., Cranden said.

Fowler’s choice Wednesday was a concoction of custard, brownie chunks and Twix candy bar crumbles. Ramirez didn’t get anything.

They weren’t the only ones waiting.

Rachelle Barclay stood outside to bring her and her son, Zach, a couple of desserts. She said she goes to Ollie’s on its first day every year, rain, snow or shine.

She said that she was running errands and getting Ollie’s on the way home.

Cranden has owned the local institution for 21 years and said she loves interacting with the patrons, whether it is meeting new customers or visiting with existing customers.

“They keep me going,” Cranden said.

She said in mid-March, the custard shop will launch a new product they haven’t used before called “Dole Whip,” a dairy-free dessert. Cranden said it comes in a variety of flavors, and Ollie’s will try seven of them.

“Apparently it’s really popular at Disney,” Cranden said.

She said the shop also has added some cereal toppings and granola to its menu, too. However, what keeps people coming to Ollie’s is the custard itself.

“Our custard is a premium product,” Cranden said. “It sells itself.”

She said her “awesome” staff is great too.

Cranden’s manager, Courtney Olson, has worked for Ollie’s for 12 years, and said she likes coming to work. She said she got into the business because she’s known the Cranden family since she was a child, and she later applied and got the job.

“I love everybody here,” she said.

She said the customers are great, and one of her favorite parts of the job is watching customers grow up.

“There are a lot of people who I’ve seen since they were kids and they’re now adults,” Olson said. “It’s crazy.”