It may come as a surprise to some that Greenville, South Carolina is a wonderful, cultural melting pot. The quaint and very family-friendly community is home to over a dozen campuses of higher education and the only U.S.-based BMW production plant. And for nearly ten years, the wholesome, southern appeal of Luna Rosa Café—a lovely, hometown café and gelateria—has been a mainstay in the fabric of this culturally diverse city. In fact, the business is doing so well that within the next few months it will move into a larger space on the main street of town.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with Richard and Linda Schweitzer, co-owners of Luna Rosa Café, for this “10 Questions” segment. They are both truly humble people who say they owe their business’s success to their daughter, Lauren; son-in-law, Jose; their great employees, loyal customers – some who drive two hours just to eat – and a gelato ingredient sales person.
Amy Andrade (AA): Why did you decide to open your business in Greenville?
Richard Schweitzer (RS): A friend recommended that we visit Greenville. They said it would be a great place to open a gelato business since there was nothing like that in the area. We visited and fell in love with it.
Linda Schweitzer (LS): The people were great, and we enjoyed that it was a small town with good family values and an international crowd.
AA: Why did you decide to open as a restaurant/café and not a gelato shop?
RS: Since gelato is seasonal in this part of the country, we knew we would need to offer food on the menu.
AA: How did you get into actually making your own gelato?
RS: While being a silent partner in a frozen dessert business, I learned to make gelato from the company’s gelato maker–a 70-year-old man from Italy who had been making gelato since he was fourteen years old. Then, when we opened Luna Rosa Café,our PreGel sales person stepped in and helped.
LS: It was divine intervention! PreGel’s saying is the truth – Your Passion. Our Ingredients.
RS: Because we always had the passion. PreGel taught us many gelato secrets that have helped make our gelato the success it is today.
AA: Where do you get your inspiration for flavors?
RS: Comes from all over…
LS: Personal tastes; what we like to eat. Some just come from out of the blue.
RS: We just made a series of flavors based around balsamic vinegar because we like balsamic vinegar. One being Balsamic Blackberry Ginger Honey Gelato.
RS/ LS: Plus, local farmers will bring in their produce, whether fruit or herbs, and we create flavors around these.
LS: We never say no to a customer if they want us to try to make a flavor.
AA: So, there are no flavors you would not make?
RS: We’re not into making any flavors with bacon – whether on top or in the dessert.
AA: What is your favorite PreGel product to use and why?
RS: Diamant 50 [Milk Base – Hot Process] – you probably thought I was going to say a flavor. We tried all of the PreGel bases and all of PreGel’s competitors’ bases. Diamant 50 was the best. If you don’t start with the right base, you can’t have a good end product. Diamant 50 provides us with flexibility to create any flavor we want.
AA: What type of marketing have you done that has brought in the most number of customers?
RS: Word of mouth has been the best advertising.
LS: Plus a couple of good articles written in local Greenville publications.
AA: Cup or cone?
AA: Does your business get involved in any community events and, if so, what type(s) of events do you participate in?
LS: Greenville’s downtown holds lots of community events like art shows and farmers markets, and we get a lot of foot traffic from these.
RS: Because some of our part-time employees also work for the city, they are great about recommending out of town visitors who are looking for a place to eat to come see us.
AA: What is the most unusual flavor you have created?
RS: Angel’s Breath—it sells really well and we have it on the menu now. It is Frangelico and Cointreau.
RS/LS: Elvis Presley—a customer favorite—2 layers in a gelato pan; layer of peanut butter gelato in the bottom of the pan with a layer of banana cream pie on top