For owner Chris Torbeck, Zip Dip creamy whip in Dent is about so much more than serving ice cream. And that’s what makes it so sweet for him.
His favorite part of owning the historic treat shop, which opened in 1950, is the way it has woven its way into the lives of Cincinnatians, especially West Siders, playing a role in both their ordinary days as well as their most special ones.
They come to Zip Dip as toddlers and when they’re in the 80s. They come after playing Little League games and after supporting the local high school football teams during Friday Night Lights.
Hundreds of local teens have had their first job at the creamy whip, and families have frequented the place for multiple generations — one family from Indianapolis comes, four generations strong, once a year. Some Cincinnatians have met the love of their lives there, and others have spent countless hours hanging out with friends after school or family members for after-dinner cones. They’ve celebrated births, graduations, retirements and birthdays there, inviting Torbeck and his staff into both the joyful and painful moments of their lives.
Zip Dip is currently putting the finishing touches on an order for more than 250 chipwiches — ice cream sandwiched between cookies that are still made fresh by a local baker — for the wedding of two people who grew up eating at the creamy whip. Last season, it hosted a family in its park-like seating area for the 50th-anniversary celebration of a couple who met there.
And sometimes the sweet dessert serves as a balm for painful times.
“Once or twice a year, I get a family here whose grandparent just passed away and always loved this place,” said Torbeck, who owns Zip Dip with his wife, Sue. “They toast their loved one with an ice cream.”
Kristie Koester Jospworth has been going to the creamy whip, at Drew Avenue and Harrison, her entire life, since her parents used to take her as a toddler growing up in Bridgetown. These days she and her husband, David Jospworth — who grew up in Covedale and has also been a lifelong fan — take their twin 19-month-old daughters, Georgia and Josie, along with their nieces and nephew and neighborhood kids.
Before they were able to walk, Georgia and Josie enjoyed their first Zip Dip when it opened in March 2015. The girls like vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, while Mom favors the strawberry parfait and Dad enjoys the hot fudge sundae.
“It is the cleanest place, just spotless. It has the friendliest workers; there are tons of park bench areas and some wooden swings,” Koester Jospworth said.
It’s the wooden swings that win the heart of Laura Reiners-Doyle of Bridgetown. She and her son Jacob, 9, love to get their ice cream — plain vanilla cone for her, root beer float for him — and sit on a double wooden swing just relaxing, talking and people-watching. They’ve been doing that Jacob’s whole life, and his big sister Sarah has been enjoying Zip Dip with the family for her entire 24 years. She used to score cash from mom and then walk to the creamy whip with friends after school at Bridgetown Middle School, just down the road, as so many others have done for years.
Torbeck, who grew up in Delhi Township, has been doing much the same, enjoying ice cream and hanging out at Zip Dip for as long as he can remember.
“This is our living, it’s my passion, and it’s what I live for seven months of the year,” he said. Zip Dip opens the first Friday of every March, rain or snow — weather has only closed opening day once — and closes the first Sunday in October, and there are lots of regulars who never miss those days.
Fans talk about the quaint little setting Zip Dip offers, looking much the same as it did decades ago and sporting its original sign with a neon lightning bolt. The word people consistently use to describe the place is “spotless.” Torbeck pressure-washes the parking lot every morning, seven days a week, and the staff take pride in keeping the place pristine, inside and out. That fastidiousness is one reason everything tastes so good, Torbeck said — sparkling-clean machines and fresh, high-quality ice cream mix make the difference.
“The taste is just really fresh,” said Koester Jospworth. “It never has that freezer-burn taste you can get at other places.”
For Reiners-Doyle, eating vanilla soft serve with no toppings or dips showcases the freshness.
“Their soft serve just has a really, really good flavor and the consistency is great and thick,” she said. “For soft serve, it’s the only place we’ll go.”
The Torbecks — only the fourth owners in Zip Dip’s 66-year history — take seriously the responsibility of upholding a beloved West Side tradition. For Chris, it’s been his full-time job since he took ownership in 1987, and so far “I’m not the least bit burned out on it.”
“I have a friend who is an oral surgeon who envies my job. Kids come into his office screaming and crying. It’s fun to be in a business where you make people happy,” Torbeck said.
That — and an ice cream cone — puts a smile on his face.
4050 Drew Ave., Dent