Immediately when my friend Sam and I walked into the Sanders’ townhouse in Sunbury, Ohio, a small black dog with ice cream on its back greeted us, followed by Zack Sanders, his wife Ashlie and their six-month old daughter. Through this encounter, I never expected this common household would serve as the heart of Thai-Inspired Simply Rolled Ice Cream.
We went into the kitchen where Zack offered to give us a demonstration. He constantly experiments with mixing new ingredients and making unique flavors, so he offers to try any flavor combination we want. The night before, he developed a new flavor called cookie butter so I decide to try that, while Sam, wanting something fresh, requests strawberry.
We watch Zack pour the liquid mix onto the machine’s pan, chilled to negative 17 degrees. Then, he hand-churns the ice cream by chopping and scooping it with two flat spatulas. He finally spackles out the ice cream into a square and starts to roll it. As we see the ice cream roll smoothly and effortlessly, our eyes opened wide. We were completely mesmerized.
For Zack, one of his favorite parts of making the ice cream is seeing people’s reactions when the ice cream rolls up because it reminds him of when he first witnessed it.
Zack and Ashlie were first introduced to the concept when they went to Thailand for their honeymoon in November 2015.
“We were in Phuket,” Ashlie explains, “and it was a little spot by the beach and we just saw someone making ice cream, so we stopped. It was so good. . . so we went back the next night and there was a huge line of people watching and filming, and that’s when [Zack said that] we needed this in Columbus.”
Almost immediately after coming home from their honeymoon, they ordered the ice cream machine and worked every day for six months in order to perfect the recipe and their technique.
“It took forever to figure it out and we thought you just pour some milk and cream on the plate and go at it, but it’s not even close to that,” says Zach.
Sam and I had the opportunity to experience how hard it is to make perfect rolls of ice cream.
As soon as I picked up the spatulas, my hands felt awkward. I clumsily tried to imitate Zack and Ashlie’s techniques, while making sure I churned the ice cream fast enough, so it wouldn’t freeze and crack when rolled.
My first roll broke and turned into a bunch of small, flat pieces of ice cream, but my second one rolled perfectly. Seeing the slab of ice cream transform into five rolls of cookies and cream was
very exciting and made me feel accomplished. After my experience, I was better able to appreciate the determination and passion that Zack and Ashlie put into perfecting the rolls.
Staying true to their experience in Thailand, Simply Rolled debuted their made-to-order ice cream in the Short North at Mikey’s Late Night Slice in May 2016. Ashlie says they realized Simply Rolled was going to take off that first night when they saw a huge line before the event even started.
They believe people love their ice cream because it’s made to order.
“It’s almost like a Chipotle, but [for] ice cream,” describes Ashley.
“We use simple ingredients and fresh ingredients. That’s why we named it Simply Rolled. It’s a very simple concept,” continues Zack,” but it’s more artisan-crafted [and] it’s not as heavy or sweet.”
In addition to events at Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Simply Rolled has done events at the Red Velvet Café, Oats & Barley Market, Comfest, the Asian Festival, the Park Street Festival, the Gahanna Creekside Festival and Winter Jam.
Zack and Ashlie hope to open a food truck this spring so they can share their specialty product with a greater number of people.
“Our goal is that we want to become more mobile,” says Zack. “That way we can really showcase our product because in [a] store it’s cool, but we want to keep it very similar to how we saw it in Thailand [with] that street feel where it has that street environment.”
For other people looking to start a business, Zack explains that “the best thing. . . is to keep going because sometimes you won’t really feel like you’re getting anywhere, and even though you see 400 people outside your door [and] you know that you have a successful product, it’s [about] getting the motivation to keep going. Especially [with] a full time job and the baby, it makes it super difficult. . . to do Simply Rolled, but I love it, and I love the. . . people’s reaction.”