By Danny Monahan
Small Business Administration Vermont District Office Public Information Officer
Three children walk into a gelato shop and begin trying the different flavors of the day. Once they decide on a flavor, they leave laughing while licking their cones.
“That’s the best part,” said Theo Kennedy. “Seeing the smiles on people’s faces while enjoying our gelato.”
A little more than a year ago, Theo and his wife Nora decided to open Chill, a family business, on State Street in Montpelier.
“Opening a family business was at the core of Chill,” said Theo Kennedy. “When we started this business we wanted to be together more, not less.”
The entire family works there. The children, Patrick, Aine and Sasha each spend time after school and on weekends behind the counter scooping, making gelato or hanging out.
“We love having our family here with us, it doesn’t even feel like we are working at times,” said Theo Kennedy.
The Kennedys thought they could make Chill work because of the economic growth Montpelier has experienced over the past few years. They felt downtown was missing an ice cream shop.
There is an endless selection of flavors changing daily. They have exotic flavors like Coconut and Ginger, Rose and Mango Cream. Others have Italian names such as, Frutti di Bosco, Donatelloa and Stracciatella. Then there are concoctions like Lemon Coconut Shortbread, Clove Orange and Blueberry Black Currant. The list goes on.
“With the exception of mangos and a few other items, we mostly use local ingredients,” said Theo Kennedy. “We try to make gelato in a traditional way so we can be successful.”
According to Nora Kennedy, the chief gelato maker, Chill’s gelato is a Sicilian-style, which means it does not contain eggs. She said it is made from scratch in small batches daily. Gelato is similar to ice cream, but it contains less cream, less air, and is served slightly above freezing temperatures to bring out its flavors.
The Kennedys love of gelato stems from their time in Italy. Theo lived in Italy for two years and Nora has visited there as well, so they are not unfamiliar with Italian cuisine.
The Kennedy’s opened Chill’s doors Sept. 28, 2012 after obtaining a Small Business Administration 7(a) loan. The 7(a) Loan Program is SBA’s primary program for helping start-up businesses. With the capital guaranteed by the SBA, the Kennedys were able to lease their space, make some renovations, and purchase a refrigerator, mixer and other items. The SBA does not make direct loans, but rather guarantees loans made by participating lenders.
“The SBA helped fund our business dream,” said Nora Kennedy. “I’m glad there is an agency that realizes small businesses are essential to society.”
The Kennedys said it’s mostly been a positive experience with very few downsides.
“Running a small business has been challenging because we are still learning some of the basics of it, but it’s been very rewarding.”
The Kennedys feel Chill has become part of the Montpelier community. Chill has so many regular customers; the Kennedys know many by name.
“The next best thing to working with your family is interacting with the customers,” said Nora Kennedy. “Montpelier is a great community. The general vibe is people are happy when they come in here. They come in to get gelato.”