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The inside scoop

Marcia+Hartigan+began+her+journey+in+the+ice+cream+industry+during+her+sophomore+year+of+high+school.+Now%2C+shes+the+owner+of+Hartigan%E2%80%99s+Ice+Cream+Shoppe%2C+a+beloved+Evanston+ice+cream+parlor.
Jillian Arnyai, Jilian Denlow
Marcia Hartigan began her journey in the ice cream industry during her sophomore year of high school. Now, she’s the owner of Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe, a beloved Evanston ice cream parlor.

On a windy November evening, the chill in the air did not deter a family of four from gazing at the colorful ice cream flavors on display at Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe. After several minutes spent deciding on a flavor, the two children burst with excitement when their ice cream choice was handed over the counter. From wooden booths to colorful walls decorated with photos of family and customers, it’s impossible to dismiss the cheerful atmosphere inside the ice cream shop.

From infants tasting their first ice cream to elders going out for their favorite treat, Hartigans has a flavor to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.

Marcia Hartigan, the owner of Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe, began her journey in the ice cream industry during her sophomore year of high school at a Baskin-Robbins in downtown Wilmette. 

Hartigan continued to work at Baskin-Robbins throughout her time at Northwestern University. In 1980, Hartigan’s boss sold his second Baskin-Robbins location at 2909 Central St. to her, and the early stages of developing Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe had begun. 

“At 19, I was an owner of the Baskin-Robbins. I was running the store, managing the store, all while attending college,” Hartigan says.

Although Hartigan was driven and determined, she believes she couldn’t have gotten to where she was at such a young age without the support of her parents. 

“I had a great family life. [I had] really supportive parents, and I now know that was so important for my future,” Hartigan shares.

In June of 1984, a week after graduating from Northwestern, she married Terry Hartigan. And after 16 years of owning the Baskin-Robbins, they decided to open up their own ice cream shop together. 

“On Aug. 5, 1996, we closed as Baskin Robbins and on Aug. 6 at 11 a.m., we opened primitively as Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe. Myself, Terry and our employees worked through the whole night,” Hartigan says.

After the opening, business skyrocketed, and 27 years later, Hartigan’s has become a staple in the Evanston community. Hartigan’s is not only popular for its delicious ice cream, but also for the time and effort that many, especially Hartigan, put into it.

“I want the store to have an ambiance that’s very appealing, fun and enjoyable. The ice cream should always be clean and fully stocked. We definitely work very hard to keep it [that way],” Hartigan says. “The ambiance of the store is every bit as important as the ice cream being stacked.”

After eight years of owning and running Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe together, Terry Hartigan passed away on Sept. 2, 2004.

“He would just be amazed that here we are, 43 years later.” Hartigan continues, “He really got to see the store change into our vision.” 

Hartigan was running the shop on her own and it became more and more difficult to manage. In a dual effort to ease the workload and help local teenagers develop valuable interpersonal and professional skills, she began hiring young adult employees. 

“Starting in 2006, we hired teenagers first come, first serve. Since then, it has been all high school kids and then some college kids in the summer,” Hartigan explains. “The nice thing about this location is that we have student employees from New Trier, Evanston, Loyola and sometimes North Shore Country Day.”

Jane Vankula, a senior at New Trier, began working at Hartigan’s in the spring of 2022. 

“[Hartigan] is very understanding about working around our schedules and makes it known to us that she understands we have other things going on,” Vankula says. “She really lets all of her employees know that she is here for us and wants to support us.”

Vankula enjoys the work environment at Hartigan’s and looks forward to continuing to be an employee for the rest of her high school career.

Another Hartigan’s employee, Julius Daye, has been working at the shop for 11 years. Daye is an ETHS alum and was on the track team during his time at ETHS.

“I have known Marcia for a while. She is definitely one of the nicest people I have known in my life. She is very family-oriented and treats all of her employees like her own children. She is really a big reason why Hartigans is a big success,” Daye says.

Through the peaks and troughs of running a business, Hartigan has managed to make the ice cream shop into an Evanston staple with generations of devoted customers. 

“I think I just always knew I wanted to do something that would be something nice for people’s lives,” Hartigan says. “I always knew I wanted to create something.”

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Audrey Bodine
Audrey Bodine, Staff Writer
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