Millie’s ice cream now on the meal plan


Wu Caiyi | Staff Photographer

Students can use Dining Dollars at the new Millie’s location in the University Store.

By Sarah Berg, For The Pitt News

The students in the line outside the window of the University Store in the quad aren’t waiting for textbooks, backpacks or a “Best Pitt Dad” coffee mug. They’re buying ice cream.

For the first time, Pitt students can get dessert from the Pittsburgh-based ice cream shop Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream on campus — and pay with Dining Dollars. The new Millie’s location, which had its grand opening Wednesday, is Pitt Dining’s first partnership with a small local business.

Many merchants around campus with which Pitt has a relationship — such as Panera, Dunkin’, and Chipotle — are large franchises that accept Panther Funds. But Millie’s, which has locations in Market Square, Shadyside and Bakery Square, has a new location built into Pitt’s dining program that accepts both Panther Funds and Dining Dollars. Additionally, it is the only part of Pitt’s dining program that is not managed by Sodexo.

Millie’s serves 12 flavors at the Pitt location, including four dairy-free ice cream options, and a single scoop cone at the location costs $4.50. It operates from within the University Store, but is also accessible through the window into the quad. The shop window is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. all week, even after the University Store is closed.

According to Joe Beaman, Pitt’s director of dining services, putting Millie’s in the University Store solved several problems at once.

The location now occupied by Millie’s previously held a low-performing coffee shop. And Pitt didn’t have an ice cream store on campus. Beaman said putting Millie’s in the University Store killed those two birds with one stone. It also helped the school work towards a larger plan to involve local businesses in Pitt’s dining program, Beaman said.

“What we’ve kind of looked at is how can we incorporate more local partnerships within our program,” Beaman said. “This was one of those situations where we were like, ‘How can we engage a good, responsible family-owned company within the community to be a part of our dining program?’”

The Sustainability Office at Pitt originally brought the idea of partnering with Millie’s to Beaman’s attention. Millie’s cofounder Lauren Townsend said the shop is working to become as sustainable as possible. Last year, the engineering school’s sustainability capstone course worked with Townsend to help design a green Millie’s kiosk. This served as a transition to opening the new location on campus.

“They were interested in actually putting it on campus somewhere, and so the students approached the University as well as Sodexo … and all of that kind of morphed into the bookstore kiosk that you see today,” Townsend said.

For upperclassmen like Breanna Donaghy, who may have meal plans with higher amounts of Dining Dollars, the ability to pay with Dining Dollars is a huge bonus.

“We wish Pitt could partner with more businesses, especially on Forbes,” Donaghy, a sophomore neuroscience major, said. “It would be so convenient to be able to use your Dining Dollars at places like Roots or Panera.”

Junior biology major Brooke Marshall, who lived in the quad during her first year, also emphasized the importance of Millie’s accepting Dining Dollars.

“If there was a Millie’s here when I was a freshman I definitely would have been there,” Marshall said. “I didn’t always want to spend my Dining Dollars on the options I had.”

Donaghy had been to other Millie’s locations before visiting the one on Pitt’s campus and said she liked the shop enough to try this one. In addition to this and the aspect of Dining Dollars, Marshall said she was drawn to Millie’s because of a long line at the Milkshake Factory on Forbes Avenue and the accessible service window at Millie’s.

Millie’s was founded after Townsend and her husband wanted to start a French restaurant and bought a piece of equipment which turned out to be well-suited for making ice cream. They then decided to turn their aspirations toward an ice cream shop with a focus on sustainable production.

Townsend interprets sustainability as being multifaceted and has worked to integrate these parts into Millie’s operations. Millie’s uses compostable spoons and cups, and while they do not have compostable straws yet, employ a policy of asking customers if they want straws in order to avoid giving them out unnecessarily. They also try to source ingredients locally.

“The less distance the product that we buy has to get to us, the better for the overall environment,” Townsend said, adding that she thinks Pitt shares the goal of sustainability. “They’ve really shown that sustainability is important to them.”

Donaghy said she also appreciated Millie’s commitment to sustainability.

“I think sustainability is a very good thing to focus on. When you shop at a sustainable business, you’re also furthering their mission,” Donaghy said. “Maybe if Pitt partnered with some other restaurants, that would be a catalyst for them to use more sustainable practices.”

According to Beaman, it is likely that this partnership represents the direction that Pitt will be heading in the future.

“Not long ago Pittsburgh was looked at as kind of a non-food town,” Beaman said. “but if you look in the last 10 years, it’s become one of the great American food cities, and Pitt really wants to be a trendsetter and make sure that we are doing our part and growing in the same methodology that the City is.”