August 18, 2006

The scoop on Gelazzi: Very good, very cool

Is the gelato at Gelazzi: Gelato Italiano Café on College Avenue in downtown Fort Collins good? Close your eyes, think Siena, Italy, and Brivido Gelateria just a few blocks off the Campo, and your taste buds would never know the difference.

Plus there is even more to love in the Fort Collins café.  Despite the fact that every day 32 freshly prepared flavors will grace the case in Gelazzi, the luscious taste of Italian “ice” is only the starting place for a franchise concept that the owners expect to experience keystone growth in the next two years.

On an afternoon in July, when the official Fort Collins opening was held up by a faulty water heater, Jan Robert Horsfall, president and CEO of Gelazzi, stepped behind the bar and demonstrated how to make his favorite espresso drink.

“You take some skim milk, add a little ice, and blend it up in this extra-fast mixer,” he said. “Then you grind up (coffee) beans. Now, take some Italian chocolate and put a little squiggle around the inside of a glass. Add the espresso and the skim milk froth. There. It’s a beautiful drink at less than 100 calories.”

The pairing of specialty espresso drinks with 32 flavors of gelato makes up two-thirds of the concept that Colorado State University alumnus Horsfall and his partners – Tom David, also a CSU alum, and Jeffrey Hill – imagine will position Gelazzi as a player in the quick-causal restaurant segment where ice cream is a $20 billion market.

“We have a liquor license, which means we can create cocktails with our gelato,” he said.

Having a liquor license also means having an over-21 waitstaff, a detail the owners believe will help create an environment different from a typical ice-cream shop. According to the demographic profile posted on the company Web site (www.gelazzi.com) at least 70 percent of the population within a one-mile radius of each store location should have some college education with an average age not to exceed 40: i.e., the young professional who needs both a caffeine boost in the middle of the day and a relaxing evening spot for drinks and dessert.

“In 2004 we opened our first café in Larimer Square in Denver,” Horsfall said. “This is our second, and we open a third in Tampa, Florida, soon. By next year we plan to have 10, and 25 by 2008. Two years later, we’ll have 50. We have one of the best franchise lawyers in the business, Kevin Hein, with Snell & Wilmer in Denver.”

And the look of the place? What gelato lovers see in the vibrant purples and burnt oranges of the Fort Collins Gelazzi café is a franchise template.

“But we’re looking for buildings that have some kind of unique architectural feature that we can use,” Horsfall said. “Here in Fort Collins we kept the stamped tin ceiling and molding and painted it silver.”

LK Industries, which specializes in turnkey store packages (Starbucks is a client), will manufacture the interior elements, such as countertops and stainless steel elements.

“We will collect everything four days before a store opens,” Horsfall said. “It’s a whole intricate system that gets stores on the ground.”

Meanwhile, back in Fort Collins, it’s all about 32 flavors, Italian extracts and espresso. After all, the company’s core value is to make people happier than they could have been.

 

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In memoriam: Harry Olivieri

Mike Hoban, owner of the Taste of Philly franchise in Fort Collins, had already heard the news: Harry Olivieri, co-inventor of the Philly cheese steak, died at the age of 90 on July 21. The New York Times obituary, in what may be its first tribute to the creator of a sandwich, recounted a history Hoban knows well.

“The story goes that Harry and his older brother Pat got tired of eating the hot dogs from their corner hot dog stand in Philly,” Hoban said. “So Harry went out and got some beef that Pat sliced, put on the grill, mixed in some onions and put on a bun.”

The brothers were just about to chow down on their dinner when a cabbie pulled up and said, “I want one of those.” That was the beginning in 1933. The brothers later added the cheese: provolone or American, with an option for Cheez Whiz.

“There’s an ongoing battle about the original cheese,” he said. “I use American. The real key is the bread. We use only Ambroso rolls from Philly.”

So far the Taste of Philly franchise has five shops: two each in Denver and Colorado Springs and one in Fort Collins.

“We’ve been open for nine months now, and we’re doing great,” Hoban said. “We get 200 to 300 people for lunch on Fridays, plus a lot of folks from Pennsylvania who want to make sure they are getting their cheese steak from someone who would never, ever call it a Philly sandwich.”

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Where’s the Beef?

Those who have attended a wedding or a corporate meeting at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch may not know that it is also a working cattle ranch. This fall, as always, there will be sides of natural beef for sale.

“Our steer are born and raised right here on the ranch,´ said Krista Holsclaw, the working ranch manager. “The meat is absolutely free of steroids and hormones.”

The processing is done at a USDA plant east of Greeley. This year there will be 16 sides of beef available to the public. To order, contact Holsclaw at (970) 667-3915 or krista@sylvandale.com.

Is the gelato at Gelazzi: Gelato Italiano Café on College Avenue in downtown Fort Collins good? Close your eyes, think Siena, Italy, and Brivido Gelateria just a few blocks off the Campo, and your taste buds would never know the difference.

Plus there is even more to love in the Fort Collins café.  Despite the fact that every day 32 freshly prepared flavors will grace the case in Gelazzi, the luscious taste of Italian “ice” is only the starting place for a franchise concept that the owners expect to experience keystone growth in the next two years.

On an afternoon…

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