Annie Zoll, Zesco Products Inc.
Annie Zoll is a self-professed tabletop connoisseur, which is good because she specializes in designing them for a living. For the last 20-plus years, Zoll has put her design expertise to work at her job as a business development and tabletop specialist at her family’s company, Zesco. Essentially, they design commercial kitchens for businesses around the city. Zesco supplies the equipment, and does installation and repairs, too.
When she’s not building relationships with her clients, the 42-year-old resides in downtown Indianapolis with her girlfriend, Radio NOW 100.9 DJ Gabby Love, and their two dogs and two cats. Most of the time, they play tourists in their own town and can frequently be found stomping around the city.
“We’ve all been through a whole lot with COVID in our industry,” Zoll says. “So, more than ever, I realize how much I lean on my industry family. And I think that’s what separates a lot of cities from us, is the community that’s here.”
We chatted with Annie and got the 411 on all things tabletops, renovating a kitchen, and what it’s like working with family.
Maven superpower: Having the ability to remain teachable. I also can rip through a plate of Joe’s stone crabs in record time
Did you always plan to go into the family business?
Not at all, actually. I was one of the first paid interns for Ocean Drive magazine, which is based out of Miami. And then when I found out what the pay was, I realized that just probably wasn’t going to work out. So, when I came home, and I was done with school at Indiana University, I realized it was probably best to see what the family businesses needed help with and save some money, and here I am.
How would you describe your job to a stranger?
I provide all kinds of solutions for my clients in the restaurant, bar, and hospitality industry. Specifically, those that take their talent, their operations and their ability to have longevity in this industry seriously.
Do you have any guiding principles for your professional life?
Always be honest and always have integrity. All information is good information, good or bad.
You’ve been with the company for 20 years. What’s your favorite thing about the job?
Honestly, I would say immersing myself in the community and understanding what makes it tick. The people, my clients — that’s the heart of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s fast-casual or if it’s fine dining or if it’s even an application that’s going in a food hall. It doesn’t cease to fail that I always find something interesting, engaging, sometimes captivating about the independent restaurant. And what it is that makes them tick. It takes one to know it. We’re all nuts in this business…it’s a good nuts. Finding solutions for my clients is always something that keeps me going to find the next one.
When working with family, how do you separate family and business?
My mother put a handwritten sign on her front door about four years ago as it was Passover and we all were having Seder at my parents’ house. The sign read “Happy Passover! Please leave your politics and work discussions right here at the door. Love You, Management”
The rule we try to stick by and are successful with at least 50% of the time is that we discuss all work-related topics in the office and never at home when we are together as a family. Being mindful of each other’s space and needs in this realm allows us to be present with each other. Are these rules bent or broken sometimes? 100%. As I’ve gotten older, this very practice has never meant more or been so sacred to me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best laugh is always at yourself, as it’s imperative to be humble and be able to laugh at yourself, always. And I would say another piece of advice is when you don’t know what to say or do, do nothing at all. It will come to you.
What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
People get very surprised when they learn that I love to fish. What Jewish girl do you know that likes to fish? But I’m always practicing sustainability and I always catch and release. I love Legos, that’s another one.
What can we find you doing on the weekends and in your free time?
Definitely having dinner with one of my clients. I would say walking the pups around downtown Indianapolis with Gabby. You can always, always catch me and Gabby somewhere, probably checking in with a client and having dinner or even playing tennis.
If you were deserted on an island, what three items would you bring with you?
Epionce Renewal Facial Cream, my very best fishing pole and a metal detector, and DJ Gabby Love.
What should people consider or look for when renovating a kitchen?
The space of any kitchen will dictate every important element involved. From your menu, maximizing efficiency given said capacity, and of course your budget. The top three areas that are always overlooked when designing and building a new kitchen are refrigeration, landing space (for prepping, playing and expo line), and of course storage.
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.