Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl in Zanesville, Ohio, has the scoops
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Joe Baker, ice cream maker at Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl in Zanesville, Ohio, and an employee since 1977, gets up early every morning to bring guests the scoop; the many scoops of ice cream, that is. Baker is sole creator of the seasonal flavors and introduced many of the regular ice cream flavors you’ll find at Tom’s.
He alone makes about 600 gallons of ice cream a week. Baker started with the company in 1977, as clerk, while still in high school. He then became assistant manager to Bill Sullivan, who also began his career at the store while in high school.
Eventually, both gentlemen would advance in the company and Baker became manager. When asked if his recipes or methods for creating the ice cream had changed in the last 50 years, Baker said, "Everything is the same or similar, with the exception of added seasonal flavors which he created."
Baker and Sullivan taste test the flavors when or if they make a change because they want to keep tradition alive. They try to stay consistent. The mint ice cream has never changed. However, the peach has changed three times.
Let’s take a step back and learn just where Tom’s got its start. It all started with two cousins, Jack Hemmer and Tom Mirgon. They opened a quaint little ice cream shop called Jack Hemmer Ice Cream right on Linden Avenue in Zanesville, Ohio.
Jack Hemmer Ice Cream was in business for two years, starting in 1948. Then, in 1950, the location changed to 532 McIntire Avenue in Zanesville, Ohio and the location has stayed the same ever since.
The location has not changed since the move to McIntire but the name did. In 1957 Jack Hemmer Ice Cream became known as Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl. For 61 years, Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl has been serving up fresh food, homemade ice cream and fresh roasted peanuts daily.
In 1968, Sullivan began his career with Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl. He started his career with Tom’s about nine years before Baker came on board.
Sullivan worked for Tom’s for approximately two years. Then, like many of our young men, Bill was drafted into the Army. In 1972, Sullivan returned home to earn his degree at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
In 1979, Baker needed a manager and Sullivan accepted, and remained manager until 1984. It was then on a handshake, as much business was done in that time, that Sullivan bought Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl.
He promised to always keep the name the same, and, just like the name, not much else has changed. When asked why he thinks people from all over come just to eat at Tom’s, Sullivan said that it’s the length of time Tom’s has been around, great social media, and that Tom’s has a good reputation, "We have homemade food, excellent customer service, Ben Haggy Chocolates, and Tom’s is locally owned and operated."
As for my ice cream on this visit, I ordered a chocolate peanut butter cup sundae topped with hot fudge and Spanish nuts. It had huge chunks of peanut butter cups and it oozed with chocolatey goodness; hot fudge, nutty, salty, sweet, with a pallet-pleasing gooeyness.
While at Tom’s, I talked to Hannah Moody, a fellow ice cream connoisseur, about what she had ordered. She had the coffee flavor with hot fudge and Spanish nuts sundae. Hannah said, “It’s creamy and tastes like espresso; salty yet sweet…the peanuts enhance the flavor. It’s the perfect blend of salty and sweet.”
I learned a lot about Tom’s, and how Baker and Sullivan run it, but I wanted to know more. So, I talked to Rachael Melick, who has been a server/waitress at Tom’s for almost 10 years.
She came in one day, threw on an apron, and never left. When asked why she thinks people come from all around and far away just to visit Tom’s, Melick said, "It’s the nostalgia. Tom’s is one of the few hometown businesses left in Zanesville. We have great products and great ice cream."
Left to right: Andy Carpenter, Joe Baker, Kylie Whickham, Rachael Melick, Bill Sullivan, Ethen Dent.
Many famous people have visited Tom’s, such as John Glenn, Mitt Romney, current U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson, and Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio. Dantonio even left a signed football behind.
In conclusion, you can now get a taste as to why Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl has thrived for all these years. The hard work, dedication, and love that Sullivan, Baker, Melick, and other staff have for their restaurant and their customers is heartwarming.
So, if you’re ever in the area or looking to make a road trip be sure to stop by and get your scoop at Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl, located just off Interstate 70 in Zanesville, Ohio. Tom’s not only serves up ice cream, but also has a full meu of homemade, delicious, feel good food that will keep you coming back for more.
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