Morano Gelato repurchased by founder

by Alexandra Steinberg | 1/27/17 2:05am


Morano Gelato Hanover is now the company's flagship store.

by Morgan Moinian / The Dartmouth

Earlier this month, founder of Morano Gelato Morgan Morano bought back the Hanover location with partners Victoria and Richard Simek after selling it in 2013 to Norwich, Vermont couples Pam and Bill Miles and Jennifer and John Langhus.

Morano said that she sold the shop to spend more time outside of it and to consider how she could expand the business. In 2015, she opened a Morano Gelato shop in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. In the fall of 2016, she began negotiations with the Mileses and Langhuses about whether they would join the franchise or choose to sell the location back to her, she said. The Mileses and Langhuses decided to sell.

Although Pam Miles and Jennifer Langhus enjoyed being integrated in the Hanover and Upper Valley community as small business owners as well as the creative process of making gelato, they did not wish to become part of the franchise and felt it was time to pursue other projects.

Langhus explained that she decided to sell the Hanover shop so that Morano could pursue her franchising goals.

“Gelato is actually not my dream; it’s [Morano]’s dream,” she said. “And the last thing I want to do, because I love it so much, is stand in front of somebody else’s dream.”

For Morano, the opportunity to buy back the Hanover location represented the chance for her to return to Morano Gelato’s beginning and to a community that encouraged the growth of her company.

“I started close to seven years ago on the Dartmouth Green, right there, scooping out of a freezer at a farmer’s market,” Morano explained. “And it was the community that really supported me, including the Dartmouth community, that lined up for the gelato and encouraged me and encouraged other people in business, including landlords, to take risks with me and the company.”

Morano Gelato Hanover is now the organization’s flagship location, meaning that new products and flavors, such as gelato pasta, will debut there and affect company-wide implementation. Previously, this was done at the Chestnut Hill location, Morano said.

Morano’s ability to work in Hanover allows her to partner with the Simeks, who are based in New London and had signed a franchise agreement with Morano Gelato in October 2016.

Victoria Simek, who has a marketing background, had been researching a franchise opportunity to get involved with. Upon tasting Morano Gelato and then researching the company and Morano, Simek realized that she wanted to join Morano’s franchise and be part of its growth, she said.

After buying the Hanover location, Morano and the Simeks repainted, installed new floors and premiered new gelato cakes and cone sizes in the store. Since reopening the Hanover location on Jan. 14, Morano said that she and the Simeks have received positive response both to Morano’s return and the Simeks joining the Hanover location.

Morano decided to expand the company for the same reason she first opened the store: to introduce people and communities to authentic Italian gelato.

Some customers told Morano that she should not expand because of the quality decline that many assume inevitably comes with franchising, she said. Morano quelled this idea, expressing that multiple groups should have access to authentic Italian gelato.

“When something is special and unique and has the potential to bring joy to other people in different communities, it’s selfish not to share it,” she said.

Morano emphasized that expansion and franchising efforts will not affect the gelato’s quality, and that the company will grow in a slow, controlled fashion.

Within the next few months, the company will be opening a Westfield, New Jersey location. Morano also plans to sign between six and eight franchisees within the year, develop new products and spend more time creating gelato in the kitchen.

Victoria Simek expressed her desire to have a firm foundation in Hanover and continue to strengthen relations between Morano Gelato and the Dartmouth community. Over the next three to five years, Simek hopes to own three Morano Gelato franchises, she said.

Morano and the former owners remain on amicable terms.

Post-Morano ownership, Jennifer Langhus is the musical director for a middle school musical and plans to open a vocal studio in her house, teach voice lessons, participate in shows with the North County Community Theatre and volunteer in her children’s schools.

Pam Miles has no concrete plans but is currently assistant teaching community Spanish classes at the Rassias Language Immersion Program and is looking forward to spending time with family.

Jennifer Langhus explained that, now that she is no longer a part of the store, she misses her Italian coffee and still goes to the shop to have a cappuccino.

“In fact I’m going in there today,” she said. “Because, if I don’t have a cappuccino, I’m gonna die.”

The Hanover location is now open seven days a week.

Correction Appended (January 27, 2017):

The original version of this article stated that Morgan Morano sold the Hanover location of Morano Gelato intending to buy it back, which she did not. The article has been updated to correctly describe her intentions.