Owners/operators and their background: MJ’s Gelato is owned by Pat and Jodi Ronspies. Pat works at Vulcraft, and Jodi began her other business, Employment Works Inc., in 1996.
Location: 107 N. Fourth St., Norfolk
Business overview: MJ’s Gelato offers gelato in assorted flavors. Gelato is a frozen dessert of Italian origin. Jodi Ronspies said gelato is like ice cream, but it contains less fat, fewer calories and is more dense.
“It’s not a health food, but it sure is good,” she said.
MJ’s Gelato also offers the treat in a cup or a variety of cones — plain or decorated, waffle or cake and gluten free. Dairy-free gelato will be available soon at the shop, and dairy-free sorbets are already available.
The shop is creating new desserts on a regular basis, including a new affogato, which features a scoop of vanilla bean or espresso gelato with a shot of espresso and caramel and chocolate drizzle.
The shop also features confections like cupcakes, pies and cheesecakes made by various area bakers like Mama Made, Limited Edition Cakes and Crystal’s Confectionery Creations.
When did the business open? Dec. 20, 2019
Hours of operation: 1-5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 1-6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; Hours will adjust to 8 p.m. during the summer.
Number employed: Three
Why did you decide to open this business? “I was getting to the point where I just wanted to do something fun and decided, because my husband loves ice cream, I would do something that was somewhat related to ice cream,” she said.
Ronspies said she likes the idea of being downtown and thought a gelato shop would be something fun and different for the downtown environment.
“We’ve got some great new restaurant places and bars and things like that coming in, but I was looking for something for kids and for people to come and do something other than go to a bar,” she said.
What makes your business unique? “We have a lot of ice cream places in Norfolk, and they’re great. ... But there aren’t a lot of places that sell gelato — even in Nebraska,” Ronspies said.
Where did the business’ name come from? The “MJ” in MJ’s Gelato are the first letters in the names of two girls the Ronspieses know. “M” is for Morgan, the daughter of one of Jodi Ronspies’ friends; “J” is for Jaysa, her granddaughter. Both girls have Down syndrome, and Ronspies said she chose to use the letters for the name of the shop to help bring awareness to the condition. Eventually, she intends to have information regarding Down syndrome at the shop.
What is your goal for the business? Ronspies said her overall goal for MJ’s Gelato is to make enough of a profit to donate to a Norfolk charity that would support those who are going through chemotherapy or the trauma of finding out they have cancer.
“My mom passed away from liver cancer five years ago, and I’ve always been trying to find some way to honor her,” she said. “I already have another business. I’m close to retirement age. ... I was just thinking of something fun and simple that would honor my mom.”
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