Jarrell family trips to Youngstown, Ohio, always require a stop at locally born Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt. In March, the drive for the world-class (more on that later) frozen treat got much shorter when Madison resident Rick Jarrell opened a Handel’s franchise at 7086 Highway 72 West, in Watercress Plaza.

“My wife is from Youngstown. Every time we go to visit we stop and get our Handel’s fix,” says Jarrell, a Birmingham native who is retired from the IT department at Blue Cross/Blue Shield. “My wife said we should bring Handel’s to Huntsville.”

Turns out that was a good suggestion. Business has been hopping since Day One, with fans forming long lines to enjoy a frozen treat that is made daily on the premises. Eight walk-up windows keep the line moving fast, Jarrell says, and there is outdoor seating. Jarrell actively markets his business, focusing on high volume and community. “We do events and volumes the other ice cream places can’t do,” he says. He and his daughter Rachael take the show on the road, serving ice cream indoors or from their truck at corporate and family events. The shop sponsored the children’s area at the Madison Street Festival. See the store on Facebook at Handel’s Ice Cream Huntsville.

At least 48 flavors fill the freezers on any given day, Jarrell says, plus there are seasonal concoctions. In stock for fall are, clockwise from upper left, Dutch Apple Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Pecan and Egg Nog. National Geographic gives Handel’s Homemade a nod as one of the “Ten Best Ice Creams” worldwide, putting it on a list with ice creams from France, Cuba, Italy and other U.S. makers.

Handel’s started in Youngstown in 1945, when Alice Handel sold her homemade ice cream from her husband’s auto repair garage. Franchises now operate in eight states, with the Madison store being the first in Alabama. Jarrell is considering opening another local shop. Read more about the original business, menu and locations at  www.handelsicecream.com/

In addition to dipped cones or bowls, Handel’s makes and serves chocolate-dipped ice cream pops and ice cream cookies, such as this Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cookie on oversized Oreo wafers. For customers who want to eat with a spoon or straw, there are milk shakes, sundaes, banana splits, floats and fruity sherbet freezes.

Quality ingredients and customer satisfaction are two of the tenets of Handel’s, Jarrell says. Name brands are used in the products, such as Reese’s peanut butter and Taster’s Choice coffee – in this Coffee Heath waffle cone being served by Avery Branner. Jarrell  encourages his employees to try the varieties to build knowledge and confidence in the product they sell, and customers are welcome to sample the flavors to ensure they get something they like. “If a customer is unhappy,” he promises, “we’ll just give them a different scoop.”


Deborah Bennick is a freelance writer and editor in Huntsville whose career spans 25 years working for newspapers and magazines in four states. She enjoys cooking, reading, volunteering and being outdoors.


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