At age 21, business partners Eric Ingle and Logan Franz, owners of Whit’s Frozen Custard, are the youngest owner-operators in Gerber Village and among the youngest in Asheville. How did they get so far so fast? “We started young,” Eric says with a laugh.
Friends since second grade, Eric and Logan grew up in the small college town of Granville, Ohio, a quaint New England-style community—a village, actually—in east central Ohio, along the western edge of the Appalachian Plateau. Home to Denison University, Granville proper has a permanent population of only 3,500, which swells to 5,600 when college is in session, while the wider Granville area boasts about 8,000 residents.
This is the small-town environment that Eric and Logan grew up in—and the place where Whit’s Frozen Custard was born.
In 2003, when the two friends were in second grade, the entire Granville Elementary School took a field trip to a newly opened ice cream shop, Whit’s Frozen Custard, founded by Granville resident Chuck Whitman. Three years later, a friend of the Whitman family asked if he could start another Whit’s, and before long a few other friends and former Granvillians followed suit.
The frozen custard was that good. A franchise was born.
In 2014, Eric’s parents moved to Asheville with plans to start a Whit’s here. “The day I graduated from high school,” he says, “they loaded up and moved down here.”
The Call of Owning Your Own Business
The friends went off to different colleges, but during that first semester, they both began to realize that college wasn’t for them. They started talking about getting a Whit’s.
To test their interest and commitment, they moved to Asheville and started working as managers at Eric’s parents’ Whit’s on Merrimon Avenue. After six months they were ready, and in October of last year, they started looking for the perfect spot.
“We looked everywhere,” Eric says. “West Asheville, South Asheville, all over.” They had driven by Gerber Village a lot and really loved it here, but the space was occupied at the time. Then one day they saw the previous business had moved out, so they jumped on it. “It’s such a great location, right here on Hendersonville Road.”
The Hard Work
Starting a business at any age is a challenge, but Eric and Logan admit that the biggest challenge for them was the legal stuff. “All that paperwork,” Eric says. Fortunately, his parents had been through it all, and his mom helped them trudge through the hard stuff.
The construction work—which they did completely on their own—took a lot longer than they had thought. They built the counter and all the bars and tables themselves, and also put in new flooring. “We even did the menu boards,” Logan says. “Corporate gave us a lot of leeway, so we designed them on our laptop and got them printed here in town.”
From October through December of 2015, they were both working up to 15 hours a day. “About ninety-five percent of all the work here,” Logan says, “we did ourselves.”
The biggest scare came right before they were scheduled to open. The walk-in cooler got shipped from Florida to their distributor’s home in New Jersey instead of to the shop here in Gerber Village and had to be re-shipped at the last minute. “It needs 24 hours to cool down all the way before you can get it inspected,” Eric explains, “and we couldn’t open without the inspection. It arrived on a Wednesday and we opened on Friday. That was close.”
Those last few days they were both up until 2:00 in the morning making frozen custard—but they managed to open on time. On December 18, 2015, the last weekend before Christmas, Whit’s Frozen Custard opened its doors in Gerber Village.
Business Is Going Strong
Eric and Logan have fallen into an easy rhythm of dividing up responsibilities. Eric does payroll and handles orders, and Logan takes care of the schedule and “lots of other stuff,” while their store manager, Heather, keeps things running in the shop. They’ve even started taking some alternating time off.
The larger Whit’s family is growing, too. After that one small-town opening in 2003, today there are 37 Whit’s franchises, most of them in Ohio. And all of the owners except two—the ones in Nashville and Hendersonville—are either originally from Granville, Ohio or are personal friends of founder Chuck Whitman.
Truly a business grounded in small-town values: the bonds of family and friendship, and the taste of great homemade frozen custard.
Whit’s Frozen Custard is located at 1840 Hendersonville Road in Gerber Village and is open Monday through Thursday from 12:00 to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 12:00 noon to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m.
For more, visit WhitsAsheville.com, or call 828-575-2455.