Anatomy of a Classic

The Greatest Ice Cream Scoop of All Time Came from the Garage

Tech giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft all got their start in garages, their founders working out big ideas near hardly used exercise equipment. But decades before, there was another guy in another garage who came up with an innovation that was simpler, but possibly just as impactful, as an iPhone: the original ice cream scoop.

Sometime in the early 1930s, Sherman Kelly left his home in Ohio for a vacation to Palm Beach, Florida, and had an ice cream cone. Nothing too innovative there. But as the young attendant readied his treat, he noticed blisters on her hand from scooping and thought to himself, there just might be a better way to serve ice cream.

So he set out to find it. After tooling around, Kelly landed on a patented design made of a single piece of aluminum featuring heat-conductive fluid within the handle. The ingenious construction meant the scooper’s hand would transfer heat to the fluid, which would then help warm the ice cream dipper, making for easier scooping. The hollowed-out round shape of the scoop, now standard, made it easier to roll the ice cream into a ball instead of squeezing the ice cream as earlier designs did. For ice cream parlors and today’s at-home fans, this means more servings per container.

In 1935, Kelly founded The Zeroll Co.—yes, in his garage—with the Zeroll Ice Cream Dipper (now known as a scooper) as its hero product. He hired his wife, Hazel, as his first employee. With its simple design and durable build, the scooper took off. Ads in national magazines drew the attention of soda shops and ice cream parlors around the country. Sherman and Hazel sold thousands in their first year of production, offering a five-day, money-back guarantee to any unhappy customers. There weren’t many.

Though the company has changed hands a few times since Kelly’s death in 1950, his original design stands the test of time: It now holds court in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. But for Kelly, the testament of everyday users would probably mean even more. One reviewer who works as an aide to the elderly was first introduced to the Zeroll Original Aluminum Ice Cream Scooper by her 93-year-old client. “She had been given a Zeroll Scooper as a wedding gift back in the early 1950s,” the reviewer writes. “I was so in awe over this scoop that I had to buy one for myself. It is the easiest ice cream scoop to use. It does the work for you.” How’s that for a sweet victory?

Scoop It Up