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Starting a gelato shop


Miriam S.
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I've just started working on a business plan for a gelato shop, and I would appreciate any advice on opening/running a shop. A little about me: I went to culinary school for pastry with the aim of one day opening my own business. I did stages and worked in bakeries, restaurant production, and chocolate making to find out what I liked best, and I've decided to focus on gelato.

My goal is a retail shop that makes artisanal gelato using natural ingredients, organic if possible, without artificial flavoring/stabilizers.

Here are a few of the zillion questions i have:

Did you go to an ice cream or gelato making course, and if so, how would you rate it?

What type/brand/size of equipment do you use? New or used?

Do you sell packaged gelato to go?

Do you make all your gelato fresh every day?

Do you sell wholesale to restaurants and caterers?

How much retail and production space do you have?

Any tips on making my own mix?

How do you handle the slower seasons?

What unexpected costs did you encounter when you were setting up?

Thanks - I really appreciate any information anyone has for me.

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You may want to call Marilene Olsen of Screamin' Mimi's here in Sebastopol. She has a very successful ice cream shop downtown. She makes her own and uses the best ingredients. I'm sure she would be a wealth of information. Since you're in the city, it wouldn't be much trouble to come up and see her shop and kitchen.

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while I don't know anything about Gelato and very little about the business you are talking about I do know a lot about marketing.

You are describing a very expensive product to make and sell. It would be near impossible to afford the type of location that would bring in a lot of retail traffic and get the volume you would need.

So I think it is safe to say that the secret of the successful shops as you describe is typically that they rent in a cheap location and focus on wholesale business.

I don't know what the percentage is of wholesale to retail but I would expect 90% or more of your revenues should come from wholesale. Retail is almost an after-thought.

I would test the market first. You could start at home testing your recipes and then visit upscale restaurants during their off times and get them to taste and test. Try normal type flavors and then offbeat ones like creme fraiche and lavender, or caramel rosemary, or whatever.

This way you can determine what your demand is going to be. If they like the product, how often do they want deliveries? What types of flavors, normal ones or offbeat ones? What would their weekly volume be? And how much would they pay?

If you can find this stuff out, you'll know whether or not you have a business and you'll avoid going broke.

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I don't have personal experience making gelato, but we're next to a gelato company. They have about 500 square feet - a small production area in back (about 1/3) and the rest is retail. Their product is fantastic - probably the best in the city - and they have one machine to make the gelato. The rest is freezers, refrigerators, sink, counters.

They do sell it out of the store, but also supply hotels/restaurants etc. with it. Depending on your location, you'll probably want to look at that aspect. (San Fransisco probably has more of an all-year ice-cream season than we do here.) The walk-up traffic in February is a fraction of the traffic in July.

Do you want to make all the bases yourself?

Good luck! I love hearing about the new businesses members are starting up.

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You may want to call Marilene Olsen of Screamin' Mimi's here in Sebastopol.  She has a very successful ice cream shop downtown.  She makes her own and uses the best ingredients.  I'm sure she would be a wealth of information.  Since you're in the city, it wouldn't be much trouble to come up and see her shop and kitchen.

Thanks for the suggestion. I've heard good things about her ice cream.

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I don't have personal experience making gelato, but we're next to a gelato company.  They have about 500 square feet - a small production area in back (about 1/3) and the rest is retail.  Their product is fantastic - probably the best in the city - and they have one machine to make the gelato.  The rest is freezers, refrigerators, sink, counters. 

They do sell it out of the store, but also supply hotels/restaurants etc. with it.  Depending on your location, you'll probably want to look at that aspect.  (San Fransisco probably has more of an all-year ice-cream season than we do here.) The walk-up traffic in February is a fraction of the traffic in July.

Do you want to make all the bases yourself?

Good luck!  I love hearing about the new businesses members are starting up.

Thanks. Yes, I do want to make the bases myself. I believe that means i'll need to have a pasteurizing machine...

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Firs of all I wish you the best for your new business.

Second I just wanted to add a link that might be helpfull ( probabily you already know it :raz: )

http://www.carpigiani-usa.com/

As italian I fancy gelato a lot and Carpigiani is very popular ( not just in Italy ).

Let us know how things are going , I think in the carpigiani USA they should have courses as well , the italian site has classes .

http://www.gelatouniversity.com/eng/, but I dont think you want to go in Italy ( oh well if you go for vacation maybe :laugh: ).

Vanessa

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Firs of all I wish you the best  for your new business.

Second I just wanted to add a link that might be helpfull ( probabily you already know it  :raz: )

http://www.carpigiani-usa.com/

As italian I fancy gelato a lot and Carpigiani is very popular ( not just in Italy ).

Let us know how things are going , I think in the carpigiani USA they should have courses as well , the italian site has classes .

http://www.gelatouniversity.com/eng/, but I dont think you want to go in Italy ( oh well if you go for vacation maybe  :laugh: ).

Thank you. Carpigiani is one of the manufacturers I've been reading up on, and they do have U.S. classes. Other classes I've been considering are those done by Malcolm Stogo, an industry consultant (classes are part of his "Ice Cream University"). If anyone out there has attended any of these (Carpigiani or Stogo) , i'd love to hear your thoughts.

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