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Love at First Scoop: The Journey from Zesto Employees to Zesto Owners, Adam and Molly Ross

Zesto Ice Cream, located in Fort Wayne Indiana of Coldwater Crossing changed ownership. As of September 2023 Adam and Molly Ross took over and are making their mark with an iconic ice cream shop.

As entrepreneurs, when we think back to our childhood, many of us may have fond memories of wanting to start our own business. This may come from the desire to be like a loved one who had their own company or from our creative minds thinking up different products or services we believed would significantly impact the community. As this may be true for some, it is not the case for every business owner. For others, entrepreneurship never crossed their minds as kids; instead, they had other plans. Typically, those plans would include a career path that provides a more stable source of employment and income. It is only when unexpected events or influential people enter their lives that their perspective of entrepreneurship undergoes a transformative shift. For Adam and Molly Ross, both of these perspectives are true. Today, Adam and Molly own Ross Restoration and Zesto at Coldwater Crossing here in Fort Wayne, but if you had asked Molly back before she met Adam if she would have ever owned a business, she would have told you, no way! On the other hand, Adam would have expected nothing less than to have his own business.

With both of them having different perspectives on business, we asked what the word business meant to them, and their answers couldn't have been better. Molly said,

"I am not a business person. To me, business does not mean making money; it is not monetary. Business means taking care of other people. It's a servant model. It's meeting new people and learning what they like, what they need, what they love, and serving them. To me, business is serving others."

Adam followed this up by saying,

"It means family and tradition. Its heritage, its legacy. I barely graduated high school and still made a wonderful life for myself with my wife and kids. It's not been without heartache and hard work, but it's my business acumen that I learned as a child has helped me create a life that I wanted down a different path that most people wouldn't have taken. And to me, I'm proud of it. It brings me great joy. Business, to me, is something I want to impart on my children. It's more important than anything that my kids understand business. It teaches you math, it teaches you courtesy, it teaches you pride, it teaches you joy, it teaches you so many things you wouldn't be able to learn in this world, I believe, and I think that stuff is important. It's a way of life, and I think it's huge."

A picture speaks a thousand words, Adam and Molly Ross pictured in a drive thru window at Zesto Ice Cream in Fort Wayne. The couple met for the first time as teens working at a Zesto location off Broadway. After falling in love the two got married, had three children and built multiple companies. These companies include Steam It, Ross Restoration, Harrys, and now Zesto Coldwater Crossing

Adam Ross was born in Chicago, Illinois. Throughout his early childhood in Chicago, his family lived on the southside, and his dad owned a Breyslers Ice Cream shop in the Lincoln Mall. In 1986, the week of Adams' 5th birthday, the Ross family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana. His father opened a caramel corn shop in Glenbrook Mall, and Adam and his two brothers spent most of their childhood helping out around the store. When we discussed this time with Adam, he said,

"My childhood was wonderful. My friends didn't understand why I liked being at work with my two brothers and my mom and dad, but we would be at work on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and every day everyone else was doing nothing. We would work until ten at night and then go have dinner at Cheddars. We would eat there at least five times a week. We were always working and hanging out together. I loved it! To me, it was amazing. I would be handing out change to adults, and people would come in and start yelling at my father for making his 7-year-old son work, but he would tell them, "Call the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission); the kid wants to be here! I can't do anything about it. He loves it!" We had a blast. I can't even describe to you how lucky I was to have those experiences as a kid, starting at five years old."

He followed this up by saying he knew from the time he was in second grade that he would be an entrepreneur just like his father was. Adam went to Homestead High School, and during his final years there, he managed to get a job at Zesto on Broadway. Here is where he would meet Molly for the first time and fall in love.

Molly Ross was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, growing up off Old Mill Road on the south side of town. When we talked about what it was like for her growing up, she said,

"My childhood was fun. My parents imparted on us that we had to work hard but to always have a lot of fun and follow our dreams. My childhood was not without heartache, though. I lost my older brother to cancer, but I think that instilled in my parents to cherish every moment and make every moment count, and that was ingrained in me to live every day to the fullest and have fun and work hard."

She went on to talk about how she went to Bishop Luers High School and got her very first job working at Zesto.

Ross Restoration was formed after Adam Ross sold his Steam It company and knew there was more that he could have done with the company. Ross Restoration specializes in fire, water, and mold damage to homes or commercial spaces and provide their clients with help to restore there home or office spaces.

After Adam and Molly met in 1999 and the Zesto season came to a close, they continued to date. After graduation, Molly was accepted into the Saint Francis Nursing Program, where she would get her Bachelor's Degree in Nursing and work in the critical care and burn unit within St Joe Hospital. Although Molly loved helping people, she did not enjoy working in the hospital environment. She despised being confined within the same four walls for 12 hours a day, so she transitioned her career into healthcare sales. Through this new career path Molly wore many hats and gained new experiences in many areas. Throughout this time, Adam graduated from Homestead High School and started working with Stanley Steamer, a local carpet cleaning service. From there, he transitioned into working with Carpet One, a carpet and flooring store. While working here, the itch for entrepreneurship was still in the back of Adam's mind, and in 2002 the opportunity to purchase a steamatic franchise in Las Vegas, Nevada, was brought to his attention and he began to consider making the move. His father lived out there and was willing to go in on the purchase with him and be his business partner, but Adam ultimately couldn't leave Molly behind. Instead, his dad moved to Fort Wayne, and they started a company called Steam It—a carpet, air ducts, upholstery, grout, and tile cleaning service. Unfortunately, Adams' dad hated the area and desperately wanted to get back out west, so after two short weeks, he moved back to Vegas, and the company was now entirely under Adams control. We asked Adam what it was like after his dad left, and he said,

"I remember crying at night thinking about how I was going to pay rent or for the vans, but in hindsight, I thank God it happened. When my dad left, we created a plan of how I would pay him back for the business, and that forced me to figure it out, and I did. Molly has been the person that grounds me, so before I make big decisions, I bounce it off of her, and she's very detailed in her thinking, and it's been a wonderful partnership in marriage and in business."

In 2005, Molly's cousins approached Adam about purchasing Steam It, and after much consideration, they decided to sell it. After the sale, in 2006, their first baby girl was born and throughout the next two years, Adam began thinking of all the areas he wished he could have perfected in Steam It. He also thought of other services he wished he could have offered. In 2007, once he had these services wholly thought out, Ross Restoration was formed. At the company's beginning, Ross Restoration offered most of the services that Steam It did, but the company's primary focus would be restoration services caused by fire, water, or mold damage.

The Ross family is the definition of an entreprenuer family.  They know what it means to build a business, run a company, and sell when the timing is right. They now own Zesto and plan to keep it in their family for generations to come.

Over the course of the next decade, Molly and Adam would bring two more children into the world, creating a family of 5, two daughters and a son. When their son was born, Molly decided she would step back from work and put all her focus into being a stay-at-home mom until he was old enough to start kindergarten. She continued to help with the back-end side of Ross Restoration, handling payroll, managing the books, and doing any other behind-the-scenes tasks that needed to be done. Then, in 2020, the Ross family decided to take another leap into the business world by starting a popcorn company called Harry's. After doing all the research and building out the kitchen, they began searching for people to help with trade shows, and then COVID hit and put everything to a halt. Due to this, they had to shut Harry's down completely and cut back on a lot of services at Ross Restoration due to staffing issues. When we asked Adam what Ross Restoration is today post-COVID, he said their primary focus is now solely on restoration services. They decided to make this change because, with dwindling staff, they knew they needed to ensure whatever services they did offer could be completed to the best of their ability, ensuring every job received a five-star review in service and customer satisfaction.

Throughout COVID, the Ross family didn't stop thinking about their next business venture; around this time, their son was almost old enough to start kindergarten, and Molly was ready to return to the workforce again. She knew she didn't want to return to bedside nursing or sales but wanted to do something else within the community that felt right for her. She just wasn't sure what that looked like just yet.

Soft serve ice cream, malts, banana splits, shakes, and so many more delicious treats are what you will find on a Zesto menu. Now the Ross family may be the smiling faces you see when you recieve your order at the drive thru or pick up window.

Throughout Molly and Adam's marriage, they continuously discussed how cool it would be if they could one day return to their roots and own their own Zesto. This idea always seemed far-fetched because a Zesto location had not been sold in years, but they never stopped dreaming about it. In fact, during a trip to Clearwater Beach, Florida, in June of 2023, the Ross' even half-jokingly discussed opening a location down there to finally have their own ice cream shop. Once they returned home, life went back to normal, and the thought of the ice cream shop went back to being a fun dream. That was until one day when Adam received a call from his daughters to go out to lunch. He said,

"We got back from Clearwater, and a few days later, my daughters called me and asked to go out to lunch. They never call me for lunch because they know I'm always busy, and I never get to take a lunch break, but on this day, I got a lunch. So, on my way over, I stopped at BP gas station to get gas, not knowing my wife and son were on their way (to lunch) too, and I'm at the gas pump and I started googling 'business for sale in Fort Wayne.' I don't even know why I'm googling this while pumping gas, but here I am, literally holding the gas handle down, and at the top (of the listings), there is a business for sale. It said something along the lines of an independent, family-owned, stand-alone building that was seasonal and was for sale, and I'm like, that sounds a lot like Zesto! So I went to lunch and talked with my family, and I said we needed to get something sent over today, so we put together a package of our finances and our story about how Molly and I met and about our girls working at Zesto, and we sent that over. They had 3 or 4 other potential buyers, but with our story about Zesto, how we met there and fell in love, and our kids working there, they picked us. Like they could've picked someone else from that pile, and we would have missed out on our big dream, but we got it!"

Molly Ross was a Registered Nurse at St Joe Hospital until she ulitmiltey decided to change her career path to heathcare sales. After her son was born she transitioned into being a stay at home mom. Now that he is in kindergarten Molly is ready to take on her new venture as an owner of Zesto Ice Ceam in Fort Wayne Indiana

On September 28th, 2023, the Ross family officially took ownership of the Zesto at Coldwater Crossing. Their dream finally came true, and Molly knew this was the perfect venture for her to take on. As Molly spoke about Zesto, we could hear the love and passion in her voice as she told us about her hopes for the future of the location now that they've taken over. She said,

"I want the tradition of an ice cream sundae or ice cream cone on a hot sunny day to continue for generations to come. I have so many memories as a kid going to Zesto on a summer night, and I want that for my grandkids and their kids. There's just something very special about going to an iconic ice cream shop, and I want that to continue for years and years to come."

Adam Ross grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. His whole life he knew he would one day build a company for himself and his family just as his dad did for him and his family. His dad owned a Dairy Queen, a Ice Cream shop, and A Carmel Corn popcorn shop within Glenbrook Mall in Fort Wayne when he was a kid. As an adult Adam built a business called Steam It. After selling that company he formed Ross Restoration. Then attempted to start a popcorn shop of his own to be like his father but due to COVID 19 he had to shut it down. Now the Ross family takes on their new adventure of perchasing their first company, Zesto at Coldwater Crossing. A life long dream for their family has finally come true.

Adam added,

"I think Molly and I share the same dream of pouring into our staff. We want to love on them and create a fun work environment, and teach the kids what we learned working at Zesto. There's no shame in working a hard day, but there's a lot of joy in serving ice cream and shakes to people and putting a smile on their face, and there's something special and nostalgic and awesome about that."

We asked Adam and Molly if they have any plans to change anything at their location, and they told us they are currently building out a patio in the back to provide more seating and shade to their customers. They have plans to add lighting and stereos throughout the space to ensure their visitors have a fun and welcoming experience. Since they took ownership of the company late into the season, they decided to keep their location open until Sunday, October 22nd, 2023. They are the only location still operating in Fort Wayne, and they've had so much fun running the shop the last few weeks. As we discussed how things have been going since they took ownership of the location, Adam said,

"Zesto to us is a love story. If Zesto didn't exist, Molly and I wouldn't know each other. To us, that is the biggest blessing."

Entrepreneurs are not always born into a family of other entrepreneurs. Other times they are not motived to create a company until someone or something comes into their life and changes there perspective on business ownership. Both of these situations hold true for adam and molly ross. Today they have managed to create 4 businesses and now they have hopes and dreams for their children to follow in their footsteps and take over their new business venture, Zesto.

He went on to talk to us about how, back in 2020, he kind of forced the idea of Harry's on Molly because he was trying to find a way he could teach their kids about business like he learned from his dad. He said,

"I was hoping through Harrys I could teach my kids what I learned growing up, but they hated it. They didn't like being in the kitchen. There were no other people, no interaction, they didn't enjoy it. So that didn't work as I hoped, but now, with Zesto, the five of us will go down and work at Zesto and serve people, have fun, laugh, make a mess, and then clean it all up together. I feel like Zesto does what I was hoping Harry's would have been, like how the popcorn stop was for me. It provides that family bonding, unity, and environment, and I feel like I have it for my kids now for their lives and their families. It will continue to be a generational impact for the Ross family tree."

Adam and Molly's stories serve as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs, demonstrating that the path to business ownership can happen in unexpected ways. Whether through being born into a family of entrepreneurs or being inspired, motivated, and sometimes nudged into the journey igniting a newfound passion for the business world. Together, they have created an extraordinary partnership in life and in business, providing each other with their unique perspectives and shared vision for the future of their companies. When we asked what their advice would be for others hoping to take on the path to entrepreneurship, Molly said,

"I would say to not be fearful. If it wasn't for Adam, there are a lot of things I wouldn't have done in life because anxiety would've gotten in the way, so I would say to my younger self or another entrepreneur to not be afraid and take calculated risks. One of the motos I've lived by for the last several years is rejection is God's protection; if you're doing everything for the right reasons with the right intentions and if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. Don't be fearful, and just trust that what you're doing is the right thing to do."

Adam followed this up by saying,

"Surround yourself with great people and always ask them what they're reading."

We asked Adam what his favorite book was, and he said he has two, The E-Myth and Profit First.

The Fort Wayne Business Journal had the pleasure of talking with Adam and Molly Ross about their entrepreneurial journey.  They told us all about how they formed Ross Restoration and now how they purchashed a Zesto Ice Cream store right here in Fort Wayne off Washington Center Road near Hobby Lobby, Walmart, and Once Upon a Child.

We want to send a huge thank you to both Adam and Molly Ross for taking the time to speak with us about their journey in life and in business. We are so excited for them as they take on this new venture into owning their very own Zesto, and we can't wait to see the Ross family live out their dreams. Thank you to Nikeshia with Creative Roots Media for capturing the photos presented throughout the article. If you enjoy reading these stories about those helping shape Fort Wayne, one local business at a time, subscribe to our newsletter so you never miss anything happening here at the Fort Wayne Business Journal.


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