By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – June 1 marked the 30th anniversary of when Zesty’s Frozen Custard, which has one of its three area locations at 2639 Lineville Road in Howard, opened its first store.
Current co-owners Ted Zieman and Janelle French bought the first Zesty’s in Allouez 10 years ago and then also acquired the De Pere location, both originally owned by Darlene and Rick Fink, before establishing a restaurant in the Howard-Suamico area with the current site being where it relocated a few years ago.
“We’re proud of the fact that it’s a local business,” Zieman said. “We get along with the original owners, Darlene and Rick Fink. They’re very nice people. Darlene comes into our Allouez store quite often and gets soup…. You don’t see too many places stay open for too long. We plan on doing it for many more (years).”
French said frozen custard, which is big in Wisconsin, is made the old-fashioned way at Zesty’s.
“You can run custard mix through any ice cream-type machine and call it frozen custard, but we use actual frozen custard machines,” she said. “We make our food fresh. It doesn’t get thrown on the grill or dropped in the fryer until somebody orders it. I think we’ve always used 100 percent beef in our burgers.”
To keep up with the times, French said Zesty’s has added new flavors of frozen custard.
“Blue Moon is very popular in this area,” she said. “We have added a couple items to the menu that we make with Blue Moon, and it has taken off tremendously. We’ve also taken some of the original flavors that they had 30 years ago and kind of developed them into using more of the local places, like we use the Seroogy’s Chocolates in like four or five of our flavors and we use Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe – we use their cringle in a flavor that we have.”
Along with offering vanilla and chocolate custard daily, French said Zesty’s also has a flavor of the day.
“A lot of people will plan their trips to Zesty’s based off of what the flavor of the day is,” she said. “They all have their favorites. We’re introducing eight new flavors right now with our 30th anniversary week (that runs through June 8).”
After the anniversary week, to close out the month of June, French said Zesty’s will be offering vanilla and chocolate custard cones for 30 cents on June 30.
French said the process to make custard at Zesty’s has also been developed since the original owners operated the stores.
“They made it a little different than we do right now,” she said. “We make it fresh every three hours, because custard is best when it’s really fresh. It’s a little bit more costly to do it that way, a little more time-consuming, but that’s what we want to serve.”
French said Zesty’s also offers what are known as Scrambles, which will include “custard mixed with stuff that you eat with a spoon, like a Blizzard-type of item.”
“They’re really popular now with the kids and that,” she said. “Anytime you blend candy pieces and custard, they love that.”
Zieman noted Zesty’s operates year-round restaurants with a full menu in Howard and Allouez, while the location in De Pere is a seasonal custard stand.
“The name that Zesty’s had for years – and I think that goes like with any restaurant that’s been around for 20-25 years – you just carry a name, people recognize it and it’s easier to expand that way than willy-nilly open a custard shop called Pinky’s,” he said.
Though summer is better for frozen custard sales than in winter, Zieman said the food is what keeps the two restaurants going year-round.
“We shut our De Pere store down for six months out of the year, because it’s only frozen custard and it’s so close to our Allouez store,” he said. “Business out here (in Howard-Suamico) is picking up. Business in Allouez has been picking up, too. But definitely custard sales drop significantly because you want to eat soup more than custard when it’s zero degree out.”
Zieman said Zesty’s has 45-50 employees on staff during the winter months and will expand to approximately 80 during the summer.
“It’s not just the ice cream/custard place that you go to have fun…,” he said. “We’re a business that has real jobs for people, if they’re looking to be in the food industry. It’s a great experience.”