Island Gelato is serving up both traditional and new twists on Italian treat in PEI

Gelato is a cool treat associated first and foremost with Italy (after all, it originated there in the 16th century), but one Island entrepreneur is doing her best to get her gelato on the spoons of locals and tourists alike.

Island Gelato was born as a business in early 2018. Founder Joanne Wigston explained, “I was looking for work, my husband [Andrew] and I are both entrepreneurial, and he was looking for business opportunities. Someone was selling their equipment, so we pursued that.”

Initially she set up shop at Farmed in Summerside, PEI, working with the original owners, Mike and Julie Taylor in their kitchen to produce her gelato. Launching her line of sweet treats in April of 2018, they quickly proved to be popular with customers.

Gelato Pops have become popular treats photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

Unlike ice cream, gelato is made with milk, and Wigston uses locally sourced ingredients to create her gelato flavours. She makes up to six flavours at a time and produces her gelato weekly in three litre batches. A customer favourite is the classic chocolate, and her orange cream tastes just like a creamsicle. She also makes a dairy-free raspberry version, which is especially popular with vegetarians and vegans.

While she was working at Farmed, Wigston also saw an opportunity to create keto-friendly version of her gelato.

Keto Pops were born. Keto is a way of eating that is high-fat (good fats), and very low-carb. Offering a treat that satisfies a sweet tooth, yet doesn’t spike insulin levels is popular and the keto version of her gelato continues to be a best-seller. Unlike the regular gelato pops, the keto pops are made with full cream and a natural sugar alternative.

Recently, Wigston had to relocate her production and when the opportunity arose to rent or purchase the old Credit Union in Borden-Carleton, it seemed like an ideal spot to move to. She and her husband decided that owning the building would be the best option, and by applying to the McCain Foods Adjustment Fund, it became possible. Island Gelato was awarded a $25,000 grant from the fund, which was set up to spur economic growth in the Borden-Carleton region after the McCain processing plant closed in 2014.

Additional funding from Central Development Corporation allowed the couple to purchase the building on Main Street and to do the renovations needed to transform a bank into a food business. After looking at the space, the Wigstons determined that they could not only run Island Gelato from it, but it was ideal for a new cafe. Crossings Cafe was born and opened in May of this year. The gelato is produced in the basement kitchen, and sold upstairs in the upper part of the building which is now a gathering spot for locals and tourists alike.

Joanne Wigston, owner photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

Both Andrew and Joanne have experience feeding people, as they worked with Circle Square Ranch in New Brunswick for years and cooked in the kitchens creating meals for hundreds of campers at a time. The cafe has taken off and although they are not yet feeding hundreds daily, they are busy.

“We’re getting our name out there. The locals have been very supportive, which is great,” Wigston said. “Coffee’s on at 7:30, if someone wants to stop in for a coffee to go, but our kitchen opens at 8, and closes at 2.” The cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so if you want to grab a bowl of gelato or a gelato pop to take home, you’d best do it Wednesdays to Sundays.

When asked what she’d like to see in the future for Island Gelato, Wigston paused briefly to reflect. As many entrepreneurs experience, sometimes just getting through a day or week at a time is tough enough to contemplate. After some thought, she expressed a simple, yet doable goal: to see her gelato and gelato pops in other retails spots across PEI. Keep your eyes open for that down the road!

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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