A local family’s love of European travel has resulted in a new gathering spot in Talbott, one that offers both hot and cool trends.
The back story of Gelato Brothers, now a bright spot along the eastbound lanes of Highway 11E, was formed during Wilmoth family vacations spent in Vouliagmeni, Greece, a coastal town just outside Athens.
The family’s daily visits to what Americans call a gelato bar became favorite memories, especially for the three sons.
“In Greece, it’s basically a European dessert bar, with bright lights, trendy music, bright colors and incredibly good gelato and incredibly good waffles,” family patriarch Shaun Wilmoth said. “It’s a fun place with an up-beat atmosphere.”
Where to begin.
There are the locally-roasted organic coffee beans; the varieties of fresh gelato; the hand-pulled lattes and cappuccinos; the trendy touches to the interior space — and then there are the waffles, made from scratch seven days a week.
“The waffles are unique,” Wilmoth sad. “We offer the tart waffle and the plate waffle. We actually imported the waffle plates from Germany; they don’t make them in the U.S.”
The tart waffle is a smaller waffle with crispy outer layer that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Gelato Brothers adds fresh fruit, a vanilla bean with a small setting of Nutella in the base of the waffle and then tops it all off with a drizzle of something scrumptious, like chocolate or caramel. The plate waffle is a larger serving, with a crunchier inner layer and a sweet bread taste.
Gelato Brothers also makes fresh medallion waffles, a small crunchy cookie that is added to every cup of gelato or coffee and every waffle cone (also made fresh in-house).
“Every hot drink — coffee, expresso, latte or tea — gets a medallion, as is the tradition in Europe. It’s always served with a little bit of sweet crunch,” Wilmoth said. “Our baked goods are made from scratch every day, no mixes, with simple ingredients like eggs, butter and sugar,” Wilmoth said.
The family’s chickens have been included in the new business that opened nearly three weeks ago. When they cooperate, fresh eggs from the Wilmoth farm are delivered to the store.
A variety of gelato is offered (like sea salt caramel), along with a creation by the Wilmoth brothers they named “Rango.”
“It’s a combination of mangos and raspberries combined into a smoothie. It’s really incredible; you get that tartness and sweetness and all that fruit flavor in a smoothie,” Wilmoth said.
The Wilmoth’s own the building that also houses Salvage Unlimited and the KARM store. Future plans are to build a patio at the front of the Gelato Brothers location, with walk-around access from the current entrance doors.
The industrial glam décor was a collaborative effort of Wilmoth and his wife, Priscilla — “We collected a lot of ideas from our travels,” he said. Eye-catching touches include the chandeliers hanging over the order/pickup counter; the galvanized wall paneling; the pub tables constructed of wood slabs combined with metal pipes for support (with hooks on all four sides on which customers can hand purses or back backs) and metal shelves installed along the walls to hold electronics while they are charging.
Although Wilmoth is a longtime business owner in the Lakeway Area, he still had a few things to learn after Gelato Brothers opened.
For instance, the need for directional signage indicating where customers should stand to “order” and “pick up” their gestational treats was revealed quickly.
“They thought they were being ignored and we wondered why they were standing in the wrong area,” Wilmoth said.
With his target customer base being a younger crowd, Wilmoth used the situation to create a tongue-in-cheek social media post. He also implemented an onsite Snapchat filter that has a geofence of 20,000 feet around the store, so when a picture is taken on a smart phone or tablet, the filter instantly shows up. And there’s unlimited free Wi-Fi.
The opening date was carefully choreographed as well.
“We wanted to open in the winter so we could figure out what we didn’t know, prior to the warm weather rush,” Wilmoth said. “We hope folks come and say, ‘That was a really great experience,’ both by direct word of mouth and digital word of mouth.”
New customers are adjusting to what Wilmoth describes as the anomaly in town. They sometimes ask what flavors of ice cream are available (no ice cream is sold at Gelato Brothers) or what the Gelato flavors of the day might be.
“Gelato is not a flavor of anything,” Wilmoth said. “If you order “pistachio,” it’s the actual pistachio, emulsified. Gelato is also served at a warmer temperature. So we’ve had some negative responses from customers who tried to take it home, who lived 20 minutes away. It was gone by the time they got there. So we tell people to enjoy it here, or very close to here.”
Gelato Brothers employs a staff of 12, including a number of Hamblen County and Jefferson County high school students.
“We have been so happy with our folks so far. They have been interested in working and excited about the location,” Wilmoth said. For more information, call 865-630-0107 or follow the store on social media.