Success Stories: Gelato Giuliana
When Gelato Giuliana founder Giuliana Maravelle opened Café Bottega in New Haven in 2004, she never imagined it would turn into the booming gelato company it is today.
“I had sold my other business two years earlier, a hairdressing academy, after 30 years,” she says. “As as a hobby, I wanted to run a true little Italian café where the espresso, the panini and the gelato were perfect—but I ran into a kink with the gelato—I thought I could just buy it, but I couldn’t find any as good as what I grew up eating in Italy. So I took gelato-making lessons from an Italian gelato company, and made my own artisanal gelato and sorbet at the café.”
It didn’t take long for Maravelle, along with her business partner Deborah Cairo, to build a loyal following. When a Yale professor asked Maravelle why she wasn’t wholesaling the sweet confection she says, “I joked with him and said, ‘because I’m retired.’” But the idea stayed with her. Not long after, a local video store inquired about purchasing the gelato to resell at its shop, and she ran with it. “We moved the gelato-making operation to a 1,200-square-foot warehouse in Wallingford in 2007 because, truthfully, my kitchen was getting crowded, the equipment for the gelato was getting in our way,” she says. “In my mind, I was thinking we’d have 10 or 20 accounts. I never saw it as getting any bigger than that.” But what about the café? “Because I had to be at the gelato company, I decided to turn the café into a nightclub,” she says.
By 2010, the business had outgrown the small space in Wallingford. Still tied to the New Haven nightclub, they moved to a larger facility in the city’s Long Wharf section and relocated the club (Keys to the City) there, too, so they could manage both enterprises under one roof.
Now, instead of a dozen flavors of gelato, they produce 50, as well as seasonal favorites and fruit sorbets. “Everything is still made by hand,” says Maravelle. “We use the same traditional Italian equipment. Our artisanal process is no different than the one used in an Italian gelateria. But here, we can package the gelato in a variety of sizes.” The facility was expanded at the end of last year.
In 2011, Gelato Giuliana placed No. 22 on Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Fastest Growing Inner City Companies.” But Maravelle has been careful not to take on any more business than she can manage. “We’re available in five states now and serve more than 400 businesses, which isn’t bad considering we only wanted 10 or 20 accounts,” she says. “It was all accidental. It just evolved.”