As the story goes, Kelly was vacationing in West Palm Beach, Florida, when he observed a young woman dipping ice cream. Noticing the blisters on her hand from the constant use of the disher in the hard ice cream, he thought to himself, there must be a better way to serve ice cream.Kelly resolved to find it. In 1933, Sherman Kelly developed the design for the Zeroll Ice Cream Dipper and received a patent. The dipper was a non-mechanical ice cream scoop, made of cast aluminum, with fluid inside the handle. Its unique design transferred heat from the users hand, warming the fluid, which in turn defrosted the ice cream dipper. There was no longer a need to rinse the dipper in water between servings. A key advantage, in addition to having no breakable parts, was the ability to roll the ice cream into a ball instead of squeezing it, allowing the dispenser to get 10% - 20% more servings per gallon. This was one of its key selling points, especially in the middle of the Great Depression.
Sherman Kelly established The Zeroll Co. in his garage on Robinwood Avenue in Toledo, Ohio in 1935. His wife, Hazel, worked for him at a wage of fifty cents per hour. The Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop was made to Kellys specifications by ALCOA, the Aluminum Company of America. Full-page ads were placed in Colliers and other nationally circulated magazines targeting soda fountains and ice cream parlors all over the country. The Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop was priced at $2.25, available in five different sizes and came with a five-day, money back guarantee. Given all of its advantages, it is no wonder that the Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop sold thousands in its first year of production alone.
The early success of The Zeroll Co. was stalled by World War II. The aluminum needed to produce the scoops was diverted to wartime use. The business was virtually dormant for several years. Its main source of income came from refurbishing and polishing scoops for existing customers. After the war, Ralph Kelly, Shermans son, and Noel Dowling were credited with reviving the company. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, The Zeroll Co. was one of the first to obtain aluminum after the war. It was during the post-war period that the Nuroll and Roldip lines were introduced. These scoops lacked the fluid-filled handles of the Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop and were meant to capitalize on the increasing home market.
Sherman Kelly passed away in 1950, at the age of 83. In 1953, Ralph Kelly moved the company to Maumee, Ohio and changed its name to Roll Dippers, Inc. It was the beginning of a slow period for the company until the Funka brothers purchased it in 1968. Tom and Art Funka enjoyed the challenge of turning The Zeroll Co. back into the successful business it once was. They attended trade show and sent out mass mailings to market their products, and instituted a network of sales representatives throughout the country. The Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop quickly regained its reputation for superior quality and performance.
In 1981, the company was moved back to Toledo, and the name changed back to The Zeroll Co. In the mid-1980s, The Zeroll Co. developed the Zerolon line of scoops, a line that featured scoops hardcoat anodized and sealed with Teflon to protect against hard or over-chlorinated water that can be detrimental to the aluminum finish of the scoops. In 1989, The Zeroll Co. introduced yet another unique product to the Foodservice Industry and the Retail Market, the Universal EZ Disher, a one-piece, ergonomically designed, spring-less food portioner, available in thirteen sizes. The only disher of its kind, the Universal EZ Disher quickly became the disher of choice for restaurants, hotels and cafeterias all over the world. A year later, in 1990, the Zeroll Co. moved to Ft. Pierce, FL.
A new era in product development began for The Zeroll Co. in 2007. The Universal EZ Disher was re-introduced with food service Industry standard color-coded handles on all thirteen sizes for quicker and easier identification. The Original TubMate Spade was re-designed with a longer handle and thicker blade. The Zelato Spade, a brand new product designed as a portioner for Gelato, joined the Zeroll product line to rave reviews. After extensive research and testing, The Zeroll Co. chose a new aluminum alloy that resists oxidation and corrosion better than any other. The results of the tests were so spectacular, The Zeroll Co. began casting all of their scoops and spades from the new alloy in mid-2007.
For over 70 years, The Zeroll Co. has continued to dominate the marketplace in company reputation and product quality. The Original Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop has undergone no substantial design changes since its introduction in 1935 and is still manufactured in the United States of America. The beauty and utility of the Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop is displayed in the Museum of Modern Arts Permanent Design Collection in New York City.
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