By Valerie Vinyard –
Business partners Jeffrey Kaiserman and Stephen Ochoa were headed out of town in mid-April when they made a stop at one of their 14 gelato shops, performing a little quality control, tasting a shake and serving up some of their creamy product.
The two partners in Frost – A Gelato Shoppe have made their mark locally, nationally and internationally – with their newest addition in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is where they were headed when they stopped at their Oracle Road location and chatted up the employees.
“Our goal was to develop a concept and a brand,” said Kaiserman, 37, of the company that now has two franchises in Kuwait. “We also wanted to develop a theme: When you walk in, it’s cool, it’s blue. Everything is made fresh daily on-site. It’s the total package – the product, the presentation and the service.”
Now an international brand, Frost first opened in Tucson in May 2005. With five locations in Arizona, three of those in Tucson, its potential remains relatively untapped with its detailed and consistent branding.
The two imported a master gelato chef from Bologna, Italy, to serve as Frost’s corporate chef. Nazario Melchionda now lives in Tucson to create and perfect Frost’s gelato recipes.
Each of the locations is about 1,500 square feet, and Kaiserman said 500 to 2,000 people visit each of Tucson’s stores daily. The local stores have a total of about 45 employees.
Kaiserman and Ochoa met in second grade while attending Manzanita Elementary School in Tucson. A friendship developed over the years, and the two attended the University of Arizona, both graduating with communication degrees.
Kaiserman originally wanted to be a sportscaster, but he didn’t want to work nights or weekends, said Ochoa, chuckling.
“Now all I do is work nights and weekends,” laughed Kaiserman. “Seven days a week.”
Though “gelato” translates to “ice cream” in Italian, in the United States the two terms mean different things. Both contain water, fat (either milk or cream) and sugar, which are mixed together and churned. Gelato uses more milk and less cream than ice cream and generally doesn’t use egg yolks, which are common in ice cream. Gelato has more milk compared to ice cream and, in turn, has less fat.
Kaiserman said he has heard from Italians and people who have visited Italy who say that Frost’s gelato is as good, if not better, than true Italian versions.
And the two maintain high standards of customer service. Manager Talia Peckham, a 20-year-old UA student, has worked for Frost about five years.
“Our biggest priority is customer service,” said Peckham, noting the importance of bringing out water trays and samples to hot and hungry customers. “People notice the little things. This job has taught me so much about the real world.”
In October 2009, Frost made franchises available. The $550,000 franchises are “turnkey” operations, meaning Frost will set up the infrastructure and training before turning it over. They understand the importance of maintaining Frost’s presentation and recipes for quality and continuity.
When a new store opens, they provide two weeks of on-site support to help set up and train employees. Franchisees also must purchase the same brands of products and equipment from Italy, including the sleek glass cases that showcase the 38 flavors of gelato.
Frost’s reach also has gone worldwide – about 8,000 miles away – where two locations have been established in Kuwait, one in Kuwait City. The company’s website indicates a number of other franchises are in the works throughout the Middle East and in the United States.
Back in Tucson, the gelato remains many Tucsonans’ favorite frozen treat.
“I can’t get enough of their flavors,” said Charlie Cottingham, a 32-year-old customer service representative who was meeting friends at Frost’s Oracle Road location. “It’s delicious but seems more healthy than regular ice cream.”
If you do an ounce-by-ounce comparison, Cottingham is correct. Gelato is lower in calories, fat and sugar by the ounce. Because gelato boasts a higher density and subsequently a more intense flavor than ice cream, people tend to be satisfied eating fewer ounces.
Both ice cream and gelato contain healthy nutrients, such as protein, calcium, phosphorous, potassium and B vitamins.
Kaiserman provides a simple reason why gelato is served with a spade, which resembles a flat, squared-off “spoon,” instead of a rounded spoon – to better deliver the flavors.
Alas, some flavors haven’t worked. Ochoa remembered a green apple flavor and a walnut version that didn’t fly with tasters.
Because of their quality control, Frost has been voted best ice cream/gelato shop by local publications for 11 years running.
“First, be best, then be first,” said Ochoa, quoting his dad, Steve.
Frost – A Gelato Shoppe
7131 N. Oracle Road
7301 E. Tanque Verde Road
2905 E. Skyline Drive