After being beaten to the punch by Coolangatta in February last year, Brisbane is finally getting its own Gelato Messina. And co-owner Declan Lee wishes it had happened sooner. “I would’ve preferred to open in Brisbane first,” he says. “Our brand has always been built on return customers and brand advocates. Brisbane will be that. Coolangatta is great, but a lot more seasonal.”
Lee and business partners Nick and Danny Palumbo, Donato Toce and John Stephens are making up for lost time. The Brisbane store will be a 200-square-metre giant – the biggest Gelato Messina has yet built – at the foot of the Aria Property Group’s new Melbourne Residences development in South Brisbane, and will feature its own classroom and kitchen. “It will almost be like a smaller version of our production facility [in Rosebery, Sydney], where we run classes,” Lee says. “That’s our model: showing people what we do, what we make and how we make it. Telling people that story.”
Messina has a cult-like following in Melbourne and Sydney, where it sells an artisanal style of gelato at scale, its stores boasting a mind-bending 40 permanent flavours and weekly specials. Brisbane will be the 11th retail outlet in Australia.
Lee spent some time living in Brisbane during a former life as a DJ and reckons the food and beverage scene has evolved significantly in the last five years. “We should’ve opened in Brisbane ages ago,” he says. “People are asking about the brand and really want that offering. There are a few good operators up there but none who can scale like we can.”
Lee also admits that there’s plenty more potential for growth in a relatively fresh market when compared to the gelati-saturated southern cities: “You could say that, yeah. It’s nice going into new territories.”
As for a firm date, Lee won’t be drawn but reckons it will be beyond October. “We get handover at the beginning of October, so it will be at the end of the year,” he says. “In time for summer.”