The Story of Gino’s Gelato
My memories of the ice cream business would go back to 1976. I remember selling ice cream in Brittas Bay Beach in County Wicklow when I was only 6 years of age. My mother and father worked there every summer. I would be there learning how to pull ice creams. The truth is I was probably there as they had nobody to mind me. Each summer I was always working at some event or beach. When I would come home from school I would go with my father in the back of an ice cream van for the evening. I left school after my inter cert in 1987 and continued in the ice cream business. I eventually bought my own vans and worked the Arklow and Bray area. My father retired in 1998. I bought his vans and worked the areas he had done for the previous 30 years. My son is now 17 and is working with Gino’s Gelato on weekends and summer holidays. My two daughters are too young to work at the moment, but show a great interest in the business. My Grandfather was a small farmer in Carlow and encouraged my father to get into the business. You could say we are a fourth generation Ice cream/Gelato company.
I returned to college as a mature student studying at night for 3 years and obtained a BA honours degree in business studies. I built up the business to a large fleet of vans and secured the majority of events in Ireland. I eventually done a deal with Unileiver with 2 of my ice cream vans. They were branded HB and they were used at the MCD rock concerts. Anthony Murphy from limerick was in the same business as myself. He also worked with his father from a very young age. He has memories of sleeping on top of the freezer in the back of the van while his father was selling cones. He also secured a contract with HB for the MCD events. This was the first time that 2 competing Ice cream companies had to work together. We got along very well and built up a trust. Although I do remember giving Anthony a position in Tullamore show, I told him to be there at 8am, I arrived at 7.30am to be there before him, he was sitting there since 7:15am.
After a couple of years we became good friends and have built up a very good working relationship. In 2008 we decided that there was an opportunity for Gelato in Ireland. We flew to Italy and met with the top Gelato makers and suppliers in the world. We spent a lot of time working with the masters and developed our own unique recipe. We started with a Kiosk in Whitewater Shopping Centre in Newbridge. We applied our concept and it worked very well. We then opened in Bridgewater Shopping Centre in Arklow. This was a quieter shop but was ok. In 2011, I heard through the grape vine there was a shop coming available on Grafton Street. We decided to go for it. This was a huge decision for us. If this were to fail, we would lose everything. We put our proposal to the agent and to our surprise, it was accepted. I can thank the recession for this. Landlords were not fussy about their tenants between 2008 to 2012 and were happy to get their rents. I do believe if we were to start again today, we would not get the good locations. Covenant is very important now. Landlords are very particular about their tenants and you must have proven track record to get tenancy’s. When we were picking up properties company’s like Haagen Dazs were closing shops due to bad business. In the middle of this the banks were no help. Bank finance was impossible to get. We had to rely on using our turnover to finance our next shop. We never enjoyed any profits from the shops as we were always putting everything we had back into the business to build it up and we continue to do so. From 2011 we opened shops in Limerick, Shop Street Galway, Henry Street, Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, a second shop on Grafton street, Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, Jervis shopping Centre.
I have always been inundated with franchise inquiries. I usually ignore them as there are hundreds of tyre kickers out there. But I have done a deal with two individuals who I got a good feeling from. One of them is in Waterford and the second is in Georges street in Dublin. Both of these shops are very successful and the franchisees are good operators and understand our vision. I have no interest in rolling this concept out on a large scale. I will hand pick my franchisees. The number 1 rule is that it must be someone I like and can work with. The rest will fall into place. My main train of thought is that if it doesn’t work for them, it won’t work for us. We treat every shop as if it were our own.
Today in 2016 we have 13 shops including the two franchises. We are working on two more shops, 1 in Kilkenny and 1 in Cork. I have just come back from London where we have hired a leading commercial agent to acquire leases on properties in the UK. We are well on the way of opening our first overseas franchise store in Pakistan. Our vision is to become the best Gelato chain in Europe, then the world.
What Makes Gino’s Gelato Different?
Other traditional Ice cream shops and suppliers manufacture their product Centrally. They then deliver it to their shops. Ben and Jerry’s for instance could be 2 months old before it even reaches a freezer for sale. For this reason, they need to use more fats and stabilisers to achieve a smooth texture. Some Ice creams are up to 22% Fat and even 6 months old. Gelato is usually around 6-8% fat.
People have the miss conception that Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. This is not true. Gelato is a product that is made using a different process than traditional ice cream. True Gelato cannot be made and used weeks later. Gelato is how the Italians do it. Ice cream is how everyone else does it.
The best way I can make a comparison between the two is fresh cream cakes. You can’t buy a good fresh cream cake that is wrapped and on the shelf in a supermarket for a couple of days/weeks/months. Freshly made cream cakes from the bakery are the best.
We invest heavily in equipping our shops with the best gelato making equipment. Each store has its own manufacturing plant. We make our Gelato fresh every day, using the best ingredients.
Gino’s Gelato is made using 100% Fresh organic Milk, we buy it from Noel in Village Dairy, Carlow. They source it from 2 local Organic farms, Colanowl organic Farm (Bill George) and Peter & Jenny Young in Aranmore outside Athy in Kildare. We have the milk within 24 hrs of coming off the farm. We only buy our milk from Village dairy’s because they guarantee freshness and organic quality.
To make fresh gelato in our shops we add the milk to our pasteuriser, add sugar and our unique base which was developed in Italy especially for Gino’s Gelato, by the masters. This base is what is used for to make our flavours. It is neutral and creamy to taste so when we add flavours, they burst out. We were exhibiting at bloom this year in the Love Irish Food marquee. We came up the idea of trying all of the flavours on offer in the marquee. We had great fun and made some really unusual flavours. We had East coast Cookies gelato, Coole Swan cream liquor gelato, Broderick’s chocolate muffin gelato, O Donnells Irish cider vinegar and sea salt crisps gelato, a vanilla and Wicklow lemon flavour rapeseed gelato, we even done a pepper sauce Gelato (although we did not use it).
In our shops we have up to a hundred different flavours, but can only have a certain number on display depending on the amount of space, time of the day, day of the week etc. You could visit one of our shops late in the day and be disappointed your favourite flavour is not available. Unfortunately, this is the victim of trying to be fresh. We try to balance products that we are not stock piling product to gain in sales. We are prepared to lose sales on an evening to ensure freshness is available the next day.
Popular flavours are Mint choc, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, lemon sorbet, cookies, Oreo & Pistachio.
New flavours this year are Lemon Pie, Pavlova, salted butter caramel and our new peanut sauce (delicious).
Freshness and quality is our number one priority. We source only the best ingredients. We buy as much as we can locally, then we jump on a plane and source the best ingredients from Italy. Even our pistachio nuts are hand-picked. We visit and inspect every company in Italy we deal with to ensure we are receiving the best ingredients available.
We don’t have freezer trucks, we deliver fresh.