When Peter Edmonds decided the time had come to sell Gelati Celesti, his business of 27 years, he mentioned his plans to Steve Rosser, a friend he's known since ninth grade.
He knew that Rosser, who until 2009 had been general manager of Luck Stone Corp.'s architectural-stone division, was interested in buying a business. Still, he was surprised that his friend jumped on the opportunity. "The fact that Peter would trust me to take over the business meant a lot to me," Rosser says.
Edmonds adds that Rosser's familiarity with the ice-cream shop and wholesaler — he'd been a customer since Gelati Celesti opened in 1984, and his daughter, Suzy, has worked there since the summer of 2009 — made the transition easier.
As part of the change in ownership, Edmonds shared with Rosser the secret of how Gelati Celesti's ice cream is made: "We have a special way of making it without air — that we can't tell."
Rosser took over the business on Dec. 31. But he emphasizes that Edmonds hasn't gone away. "He and I probably talk twice a week." And Edmonds is willing to help make ice cream in a pinch. "I want to reassure people that ... the product will be as good as ever," Rosser says. "This isn't mass-produced. It's a craft."
With that said, Rosser is increasing the amount of ice cream Gelati Celesti makes by about 30 percent to meet the needs of wholesale customers. He has leased additional space and added refrigerators and freezers. In addition to what's sold at the shop, located at 8906 W. Broad St., Gelati Celesti's ice cream can be found at Boyer's Ice Cream and Coffee on Patterson Avenue and at Chitterchats in Reedville. It's also served at about two dozen Richmond-area restaurants.
Next year, Rosser plans to expand to a second location, either in Midlothian or Mechanicsville. Rosser and Erik Robertson, Gelati Celesti's ice-cream maker for 13 years, are also experimenting with some new flavors in addition to old favorites. In early April, the shop was preparing to debut a salted-caramel flavor.
In recognition of customers' purchasing habits, Gelati Celesti began accepting credit-card payments about a month ago. And a new blackboard that covers one wall provides a space for patrons to write on. Rosser says he's enjoyed hearing customers' stories and learning about their passion for the ice cream.
"It used to be I wouldn't brag," Edmonds adds, "but I've never found any ice cream better than this."