The Mason Spirit

From left to right, Lori Ann Garcia, C. Renee Bredder, and Carla Williams

How the Garcia Girls Learned to Make Gelato

By Michelle Nery

A passion for ice cream and a longing to open a family business sent the Garcia sisters on a journey from Italy to Wisconsin and back to Morristown, N.J., all before opening day of their ice cream shop, South Street Creamery, on September 23, 1999. Growing up in New Jersey, the Garcia sisters spent nearly every afternoon at the local soda shop enjoying their favorite treat. The traditional shop with its long counter, tall sundae glasses, and black and white tile floors was home to many fond memories for the sisters, which they harnessed to develop their own business.

"Ice cream should be an event," says Lori Ann, B.A. Communication '95. "We wanted to give people a reason to go out. We wanted to make it an affair."

The sisters decided to relocate back to New Jersey after completing college to be close to their parents. Sisters Carla and Renée also attended George Mason. Carla received her bachelor's degree in economics in 1994 and younger sister Renée completed her first year at George Mason and then transferred to Penn State, where she completed a degree in speech pathology.

Lori Ann, Carla, and Renée left their jobs one year before opening the shop to fine-tune their skills, purchase equipment, and design and construct the shop. They spent one month in Italy studying gelato and brought back an authentic Italian gelato machine. "The only thing we use in our gelato that's not Italian is the milk," says Lori Ann. The sisters also spent one month at the University of Wisconsin learning how to make good old-fashioned American ice cream. "The main difference between gelato and ice cream is that American ice cream is made with cream and gelato with milk. The focus of the gelato is on the intense flavor," says Lori Ann, "and American ice cream focuses on the creamy richness of the flavor."

With their parents' help, the sisters purchased a 100-year-old building in the center of the historic district of Morristown, which, thanks to antique shops, museums, and historic homes, has a lot of foot traffic. "We refinished the hardwood floors and coated the machines in a wood-like coating to create a very natural, warm feeling that's From left to right, Lori Ann Garcia, C. Renée Bredder, and Carla Williams complemented by the natural lighting from two huge bay windows," says Lori Ann. The European-design-inspired décor features a forest green marble counter, which curves into the shop, and historic Morristown paintings.

Although summer is the ideal time to open an ice cream shop, the opening of the South Street Creamery was delayed because of construction. The actual opening in September just happened to coincide with Morristown's Fall Festival. "We had a fabulous opening," says Lori Ann. "Many people came in and said 'I didn't know this was here!'"

The South Street Creamery is now open every day in every season. The sisters have been so successful that they are now doubling the shop's size to include a bistro that will serve pizza, soups, salad, and panini. They are crafting a solid enterprise with the same research and preparation they used for the South Street Creamery, from working with a well-known chef to implementing traditional European design.

Lori Ann credits one of her Communication professors, Raymond Akwule, with helping her to believe in herself to achieve her goals: "He always said information is power and reinforced to me that if you have a dream, and if you have people to support you and don't mind working hard, you can do anything you want."