by Wendy Dixon
Twenty years ago, when Simona Faroni and Guido Tremolini traveled from their native Italy to Florida to visit friends, they noticed an absence of gelato stores. “There are hundreds of gelato shops in our hometown,” Faroni says. “And there weren’t any here, which was surprising.”
The couple saw enough opportunity that they decided to move to Destin and start a gelato business.
The process wasn’t smooth — in addition to the language barrier, they had to deal with cultural differences and unfamiliar business regulations. The Florida Department of Agriculture’s licensing requirements and regulations, for example, prevented Tremolini’s European equipment from being installed without major modifications.
For 14 months, as they worked with the department’s Bureau of Dairy Industry to redesign the equipment to meet Florida standards, they spent their spare time learning the American language and culture. One observation: Faroni says she was struck by how Americans view food as fuel — a means to get through the day — while Italians view food as nourishment and pleasure. Another big difference: “The U.S. government was helpful in getting our business started; it doesn’t work that way in Italy.”
Ultimately, the couple were the first in the United States to have their Italian gelato-making equipment approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Faroni and Tremolini, who now hold both U.S. and Italian citizenship, opened G.S. Gelato and Desserts — G for Guido and S for Simona — in Destin in 1996. After running a series of cafes, they began focusing on products for the mass market, creating branded and private-label gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt. Operating from a 26,000-sq.-ft. facility in Fort Walton Beach, G.S. Gelato sells to retail and food service clients all over the U.S., including to Universal Resorts in Orlando. Archer Farms Gelato and Sorbet, Target’s store brand, will now be produced by G.S. Gelato and will be on Target shelves nationwide beginning in February. Revenue, which has been rising 35% to 40% a year, is $22.3 million.