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Sunday, May 22, 2022

B’z Gelati: Where the buzz began

Subhead: A UF graduate kickstarted Gainesville’s staple gelati truck

<p>Zoe Strahan, a sophomore at the University of Florida, gets her long-awaited gelati from B’z Gelati food truck at the Bonnamu Music Festival on March 12, 2021. Strahan said that if the gelati truck made more than $300 that evening, then the proceeds will go to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. </p>

Zoe Strahan, a sophomore at the University of Florida, gets her long-awaited gelati from B’z Gelati food truck at the Bonnamu Music Festival on March 12, 2021. Strahan said that if the gelati truck made more than $300 that evening, then the proceeds will go to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. 

Brandon Grabhorn steps back to admire his work, an artistry belonging to a category of its own. 

A blank canvas transformed to a masterpiece. His canvas: a rising, self-started business. His masterpiece: gelati. 

As graduation quickly approached, Grabhorn was left with the big question every college senior grapples with — “I’m getting my degree, now what?” 

During winter break of his senior year at UF, he came up with the idea for his now thriving business, B’z Gelati, a food truck serving Italian ice layered with ice cream.

“I knew I just loved working with people, and having that human-to-human interaction,” Grabhorn said. “I love feeling like I’m having an impact on the world.”

Grabhorn graduated Spring 2018 with a business degree. He hit the ground running to bring his business idea to reality with the help of his mother. 

By the summer, they had a name, a logo and a food truck business model decided. The final task was to perfect the gelati. 

Choosing the flavors and perfecting the recipes to set them apart took months.

They homemake the ice cream with honey to combine with their homemade Italian ice. Most other gelati businesses tend to use soft serve or custard, Grabhorn said. 

With a product in place, it was time to bring it to the Gainesville community.

“It was so nerve-racking,” he said. “At first it was like ‘Oh my gosh I hope they like this.’”

In the beginning, Grabhorn and his mother had an idea for the flavors, but a big factor in deciding the menu is the customers. They put out flavors, and if they don’t sell then they won’t bring them back, Grabhorn said. If a flavor keeps selling, it stays. 

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“At the end of the day we’re doing this to make people happy; that’s why I chose a dessert option cause most people that come up to an ice cream shop, they’re happy or about to be happy,” he said. “We’re putting smiles on people’s faces.”

Grabhorn pushed to operate on UF campus more to serve students, one of his target customers. His business was given the opportunity to set up at the Reitz Union every Wednesday this year. 

The family-owned company first started working at UF’s football and baseball games. For the last six months, the food truck parked itself in the Oaks Mall parking lot Wednesdays through Fridays, and at Depot Park every other weekend. But B’z Gelati’s typical source of revenue is made through working at events or catering. 

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B’z Gelati food truck open for customers as the sun sets on Friday, March 12, 2021, at the Bonnamu Music Festival in Gainesville, Florida. According to the company’s website, B’z Gelati was started by a University of Florida alumni, Brandon Grabhorn. The company makes homemade ice cream with organic honey to create their product’s unique taste. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it threatened the business. B’z Gelati’s primary revenue source came from events, sports games and catering, which were canceled in response to the virus. To make up for this, Grabhorn adapted.

“We ended up becoming like an ice cream food truck during COVID, and went neighborhood to neighborhood,” Grabhorn said.  

As the challenges of the pandemic started to subside, another problem rolled into town. Jeremiah’s Italian Ice opened a storefront in Butler Plaza Oct. 26.

Many good artists’ work comes from good inspiration, and Grabhorn’s gelati is no different. 

Growing up in Orlando, where Jeremiah’s originated, he fell in love with Jeremiah’s product as a child and eventually took inspiration from it for his own business.

Grabhorn is looking at Jeremiah’s opening as a positive. A problem with B’z Gelati’s product is that a lot of people just do not know what it actually is, he said. 

“They say ‘What’s B’z Gelati?’ They think it’s gelato, which is like European ice cream,” Grabhorn said. “[Gelati] is the layering of Italian ice with ice cream.” 

Having another company promoting the same thing can raise awareness and further understanding, he said. 

Jeremiah’s is an established, nationwide company, but Grabhorn feels confident they are different enough to avoid any major hits from its opening in Gainesville. 

Looking forward, a goal of B’z Gelati is to make the business model easy to franchise. 

“We want to lay a foundation so other people that have some money and want to be their own business owner can take our model and take it to other college campuses,” he said. “We believe in this model and reaching people and meeting them where they’re at and creating a great experience for their events.” 

Starting out, only Grabhorn and his mother manned the trucks, but now he has a handful of employees.

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University of Florida students line up outside the local food truck B’z Gelati at the Bonnamu Music Festival on Friday, March 12, 2021. The food truck was an additional fundraising tool for the philanthropy event to raise money to go towards the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“I really enjoy it; it’s a really laid back atmosphere,” said Branyon Skinner, one of Grabhorn’s employees. “It’s been really cool to get to see some of the regular people, and he does a lot of events on campus so I get to see a lot of my friends and people I know.” 

Grabhorn is the housing director at Kappa Phi Epsilon, the UF Christain fraternity Skinner is a member of. The sports management junior knew his boss prior to working for him and always told Grabhorn if he needed help to let him know. Last Spring he finally took Skinner up on his offer. 

In addition to Skinner, Grabhorn has five or six other regular employees, most of which are members of Kappa Phi Epsilon, Skinner said. 

“It makes it very easy on him because all his employees literally live under the same roof, which makes it very easy to coordinate,” he said. 

Since its startup, the business has steadily grown and is starting to get too big for just him and his mother, Grabhorn said. 

The next steps for the family-owned business are still undecided, but Grabhorn is pleased with the name he has built for himself. 

“It’s been a slow but very rewarding grind and a great experience,” he said. 

Some artists choose brushes and paint, but for this UF alum, an ice cream scooper and gelati is all he needed to make his mark. 

Contact Elena Barrera at ebarrera@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @elenabarreraaa.

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Elena Barrera

Elena is a second-year journalism major with a minor in health sciences. She is currently the University Administration reporter for The Alligator. When she is not writing, Elena loves to work out, go to the beach and spend time with her friends and family.


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