PHOTOS & STORY BY NICK CARTER
Predictably warm temperatures, hanging by the pool, day trips and week-long vacations, fun with friends, cookouts and ice cream. These are just a few of the things that one looks forward to during the summer months. The latter of these, though, has been has long been a staple of the Southern Indiana community. In fact, while working on this article, I mentioned the name Zesto to my friend Kristyn, who grew up in Indiana, and all she could say was, “OMG! ZESTO IS AMAZING!” And while there is much more to Zesto than ice cream, ice cream is their business.
The Zesto franchise began in Jefferson City, Mo., in the late 1940s. It was there that entrepreneur L.A.M. Phelan invented the frozen custard machine, “Zest-O-Mat,” which would later give way to his drive-in style restaurant concept, named Zesto. Given the ease and simplicity of the business model, it’s not surprising that the franchise boomed and went national, with the New Albany location opening in 1951. This iconic ice cream shop thrived in the Southern Indiana community. However, the same could not be said for the national franchise. Due to financial troubles, the chain closed in 1955 and the franchised locations were sold off to the individual owners. It wasn’t until 1966, however, that Don and Dottie Rosenbarger decided to purchase the restaurant and officially start what would become a legendary family business, now in its third generation. Today, Lisa and Jim Young, the Rosenbarger’s daughter and son-in-law, own the New Albany store. Their three sons are also deeply involved in the business: Both Derek and Trevor Young are owner/operators and each is responsible for their own location, while Justin Young is the head ice cream chef for the company.
Now, dear reader, you have to understand that the toughest part about my job is the eating. I mean, it’s really awful. But someone has to do it. So I “twisted” the arm of my friend Meagan to join me and taste some seriously delicious treats, including a Chicago Dog, a Smokehouse Dog, a Pork BBQ Sandwich, a Snicker’s Sundae and a Coconut Hand-Dipped Cone, all in the name of, ahem, accuracy in reporting. I was amazed at just how fresh it all tasted. The fact that a chili dog could taste “fresh” was mind blowing to me, and the Coconut Cone was wonderfully decadent and light at the same time. I washed it all washed down with a fresh lemonade, and it was absolute bliss. I struck up a conversation with a woman named Nancy Snyder sitting at the table next to mine, and all she could say was. “Zesto is totally stopworthy.” I could not agree more.
Since the Rosenbarger’s acquisition of the much-loved confectionery, Zesto has seen a relocation of the original store, as the land was acquired by the Department of Transportation in 1996, in order to widen a very popular intersection. The project failed, however, and the intersection was never changed, but Zesto moved a block down the street to an updated facility and was able to retain the moniker from the original building. “The old building was a year away from being named a historic landmark,” said owner Jim Young. “It was a setback, but I think we came out on top.”
After the success of the relocation, the idea came around to expand the business, and just a few years later a second Zesto was opened in Clarksville. Wanting to franchise, but being restricted by rules regarding the Zesto name, a secondary company named Chillers was created and since then, Chillers has become a massive success. Today, there are seven locations in and around Southern Indiana: two Zesto restaurants, four Chillers, and one Chillburger, which is the family’s latest venture.
Chillburger, located Dixie Highway in Louisville, focuses on fresh and local ingredients in a very casual setting. Over a year was spent on research for the sourcing of their ingredients, and the proof is in the pudding, I mean produce. “All our produce is cut fresh daily in-house. Nothing comes out of a bag,” owner Trevor Young said. “All of the potato buns are made locally, the beef is 100 percent North American and never frozen, and even the spices are sourced from local vendors to ensure nothing but the freshest flavor.” This commitment to community is seen not only in the food at Zesto, Chillers and Chillburger, but also out in the community.
Zesto/Chillers has become the official ice cream for the WHAS Crusade for Children, a well-known organization in the area benefiting children with special needs. In fact, by stopping at any location and ordering a Crusade for Children Cookie Fudge VORTEX, one dollar goes back to the Crusade. Additionally, with the creation of the Chillburger brand, the Young Family decided to include in the business model a very simply idea: EAT BURGERS. END HUNGER. For every burger purchased at Chillburger, the company will feed a hungry child. “With our partnership with Mary Meal USA,” Trevor explained, “we can feed the children while in school, giving them a full belly and an education, and whenever possible, buy from local farms helping the local economy grow while supporting sustainable agriculture.”
But the giving doesn’t end there. The family also started Chiller’s Spirit Nights, which gives 20 percent of purchased sales from customers who have a designated flyer back to a specific school or organization. All you have to do is invite as many friends and supporters for your organization as possible and come out for a night of fun, food and philanthropy.
“It’s like Grandpa Rosenbarger always said, ‘In the ice cream business, if you slow down, you melt,’ ” Trevor Young said.
ZESTO: 2740 Charlestown Road | New Albany | 812.944.6845
ZESTO: 301 E. Lewis and Clark Pkwy | Clarksville | 812.280.8255
CHILLERS: 7601 Hwy 311 | Sellersburg | 812.248.4071
CHILLBURGER: 10700 Dixie Hwy | Louisville | 502.935.6161
HOURS OF OPERATION
10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
For more information regarding Chillers Spirit Night, please visit your nearest Chillers location.