Morano Gelato has permanently closed its shops in Chestnut Hill and in Hanover, N.H., owner Morgan Morano tells the Globe.
The closure has drawn media attention, Morano says, perhaps because she has opted to shut down despite outward appearances of success. Both stores enjoyed a devout following; Forbes even speculated that she sold the “best gelato in America." Morano, who trained in an Italian gelato lab, released a cookbook in 2015. Until recently, she planned to expand further.
“I think we’re the first wave,” she says. “I think there are a lot of businesses hanging on and being advised to hang on. I don’t think we’ve hit the wave of massive business closures that most likely will happen; maybe it’s because we’re ahead of the curve.”
Morano says that she began feeling the economic impact of COVID-19 in February, during a season when gelato sales were already light. Traffic dwindled at both stores, she says, and the trend continued into March. Now, of course, businesses are closed. Morano says that unlike many restaurants, she’s not set up to offer delivery or takeout. She relies on foot traffic and lines.
“Our gelato is a little more premium because of the quality. The prices are slightly higher, but still, selling $3, $4, $5 cups of gelato? You make money on volume. If you’re a business that needs lines to generate revenue, it’s tough to pull yourself out of a two-month hole,” she says. “Some businesses can adapt and thrive, but some businesses won’t be able to change their business model.”
She predicts that supermarkets, liquor stores, and restaurants with wholesale divisions will endure. But smaller businesses will continue to close.
“Hospitality is being hit hard because a lot of people dine out not for the food, but for the experience. Who wants to go to a restaurant where people have masks over their faces, distanced from everybody?” she asks.
Much to her fans’ dismay, Morano doesn’t plan to reopen elsewhere, she says. A statement on her website emphasizes that this is her final decision.
“I may get into operations in some fashion. But another gelato shop? Absolutely not. I’m not into being a small business owner. It’s extremely difficult. It can be fulfilling, but we’re all reminded of how fragile this industry is,” she says. “I’m ending a huge chapter of my life.”