Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make Zul’s? 

No way Jose!!!  I will tell you however that Zul’s is not a shaved-ice product nor does it start out as ice.  It is transformed into a soft-frozen, sorbet-like product in the true manner of famous Philadelphia water ices. Every batch of Zul’s begins with cold tap water and is then soft-frozen into its familiar consistency.  I can’t tell you the number of people who come up to a Zul’s booth at events and ask if we have just a cup of ice.  The reason the different flavors of Zul’s stay so strong from start to finish in a cup is because the flavorings and other ingredients are all frozen together with the water in each batch … resulting in even flavor throughout the cup.  Shaved-ice will lose its flavor once the syrup has been sucked out of the cup because the flavorings are simply poured over the top of ice.  Also, if you have noticed, a 16oz. Cup of Zul’s weighs more than a 32oz. Cup of a frozen drink from a gas station or convenience store.  That is because the single-service machines they use are constantly whipping air into their product.  This often times will increase the volume of their original mix amount by 100% or more.  This lets them sell more cups per batch and make more money.  However, because of this, the flavors in many of these drinks are weak and tend to fade as the drink goes on.  When each batch of Zul’s is made there is an increase in volume but only minimally.  Some increase in volume will occur because you are turning a liquid into a solid by freezing … and expansion will naturally occur.  But this is the extent of it.  By the time a batch of Zul’s is ready to come out of the machine and has undergone its freezing transformation, it will have only attained a 20% - 25% increase in volume.  This results in two things.  First, a much heavier and denser finished product is created and second and even more important, the flavors explode in your mouth throughout the entire drink.  Because there is only minimal increase in volume from start to finish there is simply more flavoring in each cup.

 

When was the first batch of Zul’s made? 

The first batch of Zul’s was made in April  1995, in the laundry room of my Buckhannon apartment.

 

When was the first cup of Zul’s sold? 

The first cup of Zul’s was sold on May 6 1995, to Craig Lampinen at a Wendy’s Youth Soccer Tournament in Buckhannon.

 

When did you sell your first cup of lemonade at WVU? 

I sold the first cup of Zul’s at Mountaineer Field on Saturday, September 2, 1995.  WVU played Purdue and lost 26-24.

 

What was your first big break? 

My first big break came in the Summer of 1995 from the Shaffer brothers at American Vending.  They held the concession contract at WVU at the time and Martin Shaffer decided to give me a shot as a subcontractor.  There were only two problems.  First, by the time I was approved as a vendor there were only five days left before the first home game.  Second, I had no idea what I was doing.  I could only afford to put one freezer up at Mountaineer Field and it held just thirty buckets of Zul’s, approximately 900 cups, to serve all of the west side.  I had no freezer truck yet so I asked my father-in-law-to-be to borrow his pickup truck.  He agreed … I know he knew I had no idea what I was doing but he still let me borrow it anyway, and I  quickly realized it could only hold twenty one buckets.  So, with no freezer truck I left my apartment at 4:00 A.M. before the sun came up ” to catch the coolest part of the night”.   Naturally there was close to 100% humidity that night and a low of 65 … so you can guess the rest … by the time I reached Mountaineer Field I pretty much had fresh-squeezed not frozen lemonade.  American Vending let me keep the twenty one buckets from the pickup truck in their east side walk-in freezer at the stadium until I needed them.  I wish I could tell you the rest was history and everything was as easy as pie (please read Zul’s history if you think that’s the case).  So there I was, on a beautiful sunny, hot day with temps in the mid-eighties, with all of fifty one buckets, about 1500 cups, to serve to 65,000 parched, sweating, sunburned fans.  The gates opened and before I knew what had happened we had sold all 1500 cups … BEFORE KICK OFF!

 

Is Zul’s a franchise? 

No.  The name Zul’s comes from one of my nicknames in high school that friends derived from my last name, Zuliani.  Another was simply “Z”, but it doesn’t rhyme with “cool” on my logo.  Come to think of it, Zul’s as my nickname probably gained  popularity after the movie Ghostbusters came out.

 

I am a diabetic … does Zul’s contain a lot of sugar? 

Yes!  Pure cane sugar is the main sweetening ingredient.  I am currently working to create a sugar-free Zul’s but have run into a few problems.  I have tried to make batches with crystal-like artificial sweeteners such as splenda but because the crystal structure is different than that of pure sugar it doesn’t soft-freeze like the Zul’s product you are used to.  It freezes portions of the mix straight into a solid and leaves the rest a slushy-like liquid.  The portions that freeze to a solid do so very quickly and have the potential to irreparably damage my batch freezers.  I am looking to keep the proper slow and even soft-freeze that creates the sorbet-like Zul’s you are used to.  I have been told by food and beverage chemists to try various sugar-free liquid sweeteners that are on the market.  However, you have to add chemicals and stabilizers to each batch to be sure that it achieves the right finished-product consistency.  From what I am told by those that have tried it, the taste and consistency of the new sugar-free product is completely different then one with pure cane sugar and I don’t really want to change my product.  Recently I have received a new sugar-free liquid sweetener from one of my flavoring companies that apparently does not need any additional ingredients to help it freeze and should create a relatively similar finished product.  I will let you know how it comes out as we experiment with it.  The only drawback with this product is its cost alone will triple the ingredient cost of  one five-gallon batch of Zul’s.

 

Are there any dairy products in Zul’s? 

No.  Zul’s is a water-based product and contains no dairy products

 

How many calories are in a standard 16oz serving of Zul’s? 

There are roughly 265 calories in a 16oz cup of Zul’s.  There is no fat or sodium in a cup of Zul’s. Carbohydrates? Don’t ask!

 

How come you run out of lemonade at some WVU football games? 

Trust me … this is not by design.  The information that follows should answer a lot of questions you may have about the actual product itself.  Zul’s is a soft-frozen lemonade made in the traditional style of Philadelphia soft-frozen water ice products.  What this means is that at best, each five gallon batch of Zul’s has a shelf life of three to four days.  It is made, stored and transported at approximately thirty degrees Fahrenheit.  The product will stay in its soft-frozen state at this ideal temperature but even after three or four days the product will begin to melt or freeze solid depending on the different variance of temperature controls in our freezers.  During warm, humid days simply loading my trucks in Buckhannon and unloading them at Mountaineer Field accelerate the melting of product … Zul’s is that temperature sensitive.  I probably check the weather ten times a day during busy weeks to try and accurately plan the week’s production.  If game day is going to be sunny and hot we will start production for a Saturday noon kick-off on Tuesday evening around eight o’clock and not stop until the last truck leaves for Morgantown on Saturday morning.  We can’t make the product any earlier in the week because the product made before Tuesday may be too hard or soft to serve by kick off.  Now you can see the dilema, if the WVU game were the only event going on during the week we wouldn’t have any problem making enough cups for Saturday’s game.  However, especially in late August and the months of September and October we have multiple events going on each week.  These months are busy times for WV fairs and festivals, high school football games, etc.  On Labor Day weekend alone we have the following events (not even including 65,000 fans at Mountaineer Field):  The Italian Festival, Barbour County Fair, Taste of Charleston, the final home stand of the year for The West Virginia Power in Charleston and as many as ten Friday night high school football games across the state.  On a few Labor Day weekends we have also had a home Marshall football game on Saturday as well.  All of these events get supplied BEFORE the WVU game so as we make product for the game during the week this stock is continually being removed to service these other events.  By the time the last truck leaves for Morgantown we may have had to “rob” some 100 - 200 of the 500 buckets we started making on Tuesday.  If the crowd is full and the weather is hot we are in trouble in Morgantown.  The solution is simple:  buy more equipment and freezer trucks to make and deliver more product.  However, as usual, nothing I need is cheap.  The batch freezers I use to make my product now cost close to $30,000.00.  Freezer trucks are at least double that.  Combine that with the fact that the only time we really need this ramped up production is literally two or three weeks a year … it’s a tricky thing.  As time goes by and we are able to purchase more equipment I promise you that we will be able to keep everyone satisfied on those crazy-busy weekends.

 

How come Zul’s is thick at some events and thinner at others … or even different in consistency at the same event from cup to cup? 

This was answered above.  Especially in the heat of the summer, it is very hard to keep all batches of Zul’s frozen at the same consistency.  Loading  and unloading them at different times in the day (in the heat of the day vs. evening) can change thickness.  Even when batches are made can affect thickness.  Some batches made in the heat of the day when it is especially humid will take longer to freeze and ultimately will not freeze as solid as ones made that evening when the temperature has gone down by twenty degrees.  Sometimes, on very hot and humid days, our freezer trucks will struggle to keep their ideal box temperature.  Even after only  half an hour if the temp in box hovers over freezing but doesn’t get below, the batches of Zul’s will begin to thin.  Regardless, the recipe and freezing process remains the same for every batch of Zul’s.  Some customers want it thin and some like it thick.  Now you know why it is different.

 

Why does Zul’s cost more at your larger venues? 

If you have noticed across the state when you buy Zul’s at a major stadium or arena it can cost $4.00.  At most fairs and festivals it is only $3.00 a cup.  The reasoning is quite simple and I am glad to get the opportunity to answer this because nothing makes me more angry then hearing a customer come up to a stand, pick up a cup of Zul’s, pay for it and then say “highway robbery for a cup of ice!”  At all of the large venues across the state we don’t simply pay a one time seasonal fee and get the privilege to set up wherever and whenever we want.  That is why there are so few subcontractors at stadiums.  What has happened is a professional concessions corporation bids to the university or civic center for the right to handle all of the concession and catering needs of the facility.  Whichever company wins the bid is the one Zul’s needs to deal with.  By deal with I mean negotiate and sign a yearly contract with.  Most contracts require that the subcontractor (me) provide the following: all of the required maximum limits of insurance, all of the product, all of the employees and all of the equipment to make the sale of the product possible.  In addition, most contracts across the country are written so that at the end of an event the subcontractor must give  the concession company 50% of all net sales. 

 

What are net sales? 

Net sales are the total sales left after the subcontractor (me) has taken the appropriate 6% off the top to account for state sales tax.  So, after I pay the 6% sales tax I must give 50% of what’s left to the concession company.  Often times they must then split this amount with the host facility that hired them.  In otherwords, you just gave me $4.00 for a cup of Zul’s.  Take 6% off the top for sales tax and this leaves me with $3.76.  Take 50% of this number … $1.88 … and give it to the concession company.  That leaves me with $1.88 per cup sold.  Don’t forget, out of this must come all of the above listed costs.  To work most of these venues I am required to carry very high limits of insurance on vehicles and product liability.  A couple of years ago, one company required that all subcontractors carry a minimum five million dollar product liability policy, a substantial increase from its previous one million dollar requirements.  In a five minute phone call to my insurance agent, my yearly policy cost, to accommodate this demand, increased by three thousand dollars.  When seats are full and the weather cooperates, our volume of sales compensates for all of these costs.  Rarely do both of these factors go in my favor.  Now that you know the subcontractors are relinquishing 50% of a sale to someone else, please try and refrain from shouting “highway robbery”.

 

How can I get a bucket of Zul’s? 

Distance away from our production facility …in Buckhannon, WV … is the first thing I would ask you.  If you live within an hour of Buckhannon it’s quite simple.  Call or email me with the approximate time of when you want your bucket of Zul’s.  I’ll call you back so we can set up an exact meeting time and give you directions to my shop.  Each bucket will serve approximately thirty-five people … filling a 16oz. Zul’s cup to the rim.  We’ll make a batch in your choice of flavor and wait for you to come.  You will need to bring a five-gallon Rubbermaid type drink cooler (the orange ones you see at sporting events … available at Wal-Mart or Lowes for around $22.00).  We’ll pour our batch of Zul’s into your container.  These coolers are key because they will let you drive back home without causing the product to melt too much.  You will be able to keep Zul’s in this container for a couple of days … depending on outside temperature.  I recommend that if you don’t have room in your refrigerator, keep the cooler in a dark room such as your basement.  Never put Zul’s in a freezer!  It will freeze the product solid and ruin it.  Only take the lid off to stir and serve and make sure you put it right back on.  We will fill your cooler for $35.00 … only a dollar a cup … to help compensate for your drive and the cost of the cooler.  Included in this cost are the Zul’s cups and spoon straws you will need to have a true “event experience” with Zul’s.  The buckets of Zul’s are great for children’s birthday parties, family reunions, fundraisers or corporate functions.  Contact me any time to get more information.

Last Updated (Friday, 21 May 2010 12:34)