Owners keep up ice cream tradition in Darien, Sharon

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
— Every day, Nancy Nagl is learning something new about the business.

But the only thing her customers see are familiar shops where they've spent many happy summer afternoons.

This is the second season Nagl and her husband, Dennis, have owned the Ice Cream Shoppes in downtown Darien and Sharon.

The Nagls are the third "generation" of owners of the two stores that have changed little in decades.

The tiny shop at 215 Baldwin St., Sharon, was the first of the pair to open, said original owner Judy Butturini.

That was in 1978.

"We had the one in Sharon for 24 years," Butturini said. "We saw kids grow up, get married and bring their kids in for ice cream."

In 1989, Judy and her husband, Cecil, opened a second shop in what was once a post office at 30 E. Beloit St., Darien. Back then, Judy, Cecil and their three children were the shops' only employees. Their kids worked at the ice cream shops all through college, and it was several years before she had to hire another employee, Butturini said.

The familiar corner store is the first thing many people see when they pull into downtown Darien. Specifically, they see the friendly, painted penguin that waves from the outside wall of the building where he's been smiling for years.

Regulars walk in from all around the two quiet villages, Nagl said.

In Darien, especially, summer travelers stop in for a treat on their way home to Chicago.

"Those are the people who are really neat to talk to," Nagl said. "They come in staring. 'Oh my gosh,' they say. 'I came in here years and years ago.'"

The favorite flavor for kids is "Superman," Nagl said. That's a fruity, red, yellow and blue ice cream.

Grown ups are partial to butter pecan, she said. The shops' authentic malts are a big hit, too, Nagl said.

In addition to ice cream, customers can get hot dogs, pizza or fresh honey from the bees the Nagls keep on their farm in Darien Township.

During the summer, running the shops is a "more than full-time" job for Nagl, who has never taken a business class and describes herself as "computer illiterate."

Nagl said she can't imagine having to be responsible for a full restaurant menu. But the selections at the two small shops have been enough to bring customers in for decades, she said.

"They're always happy when they come in," Nagl said. "And they're happier when they leave."

Butturini agrees. She said would do it all over again if she could.

"If I was younger, there would be no doubt about it," Butturini said. "I enjoyed the people. Ice cream is a happy business. We didn't have many unhappy people at all."

Last updated: 11:07 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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