As Ketchikan celebrated the 44th Annual Blueberry Arts Festival earlier this month, a new gelato shop opened its doors at a downtown location.
Owned by Erika and Marco Angarano, Bella by the Sea is situated at 302 Spruce Mill Way, across from the freshly completed mural of Ketchikan at Salmon Landing Market.
Bella by the Sea, which opened on Aug. 3, serves small-batch gelato made from ingredients purchased locally. The menu will fluctuate based on community response, but will include six or seven flavors at one time. The current selection includes flavors such as thimbleberry, blueberry, chocolate, pistachio and salted caramel.
“First, we want to satisfy the locals,” Marco Angarano said about the product. “If the tourists like it, that's an afterthought.”
The Angaranos have lived in Ketchikan since 1997. They also own the Ketchitour company, and sell tickets for the tours from the front of the shop. Marco has past work experience as a seiner, cab driver and tour guide. Erika Angarano also worked as a tour guide before opening Bella by the Sea.
The inspiration for the business came from a 2017 trip to Italy. The Angaranos spent three weeks visiting Marco's family in a small Italian town. They also traveled through Florence, Rome and Venice during the trip. Each place they stopped, they would sample gelato.
“It was like the diet there,” Marco joked. “We fell in love with it.”
Also serving as inspiration was Marco's family history of making gelato in Italy.
“I kind of had it in the back of my mind, like, 'Hey, let's show the old-timers that it can be done,” he said.
After the Angaranos returned to the United States, they visited New York and took two culinary training courses with the gelato ambassador to the United States, Gianluigi Dellaccio.
Finding a space for Bella by the Sea was not difficult. Last year, space in the building opened for rent after a string of businesses had occupied the space for three years prior. Before the gelato shop, a jewelry store had operated out of the site. At one time, Simply Bella by the Sea was run from the location, which is where the Angaranos' business got its name.
After finding the space and deciding to convert it into a gelato shop, installing the right plumbing for a commercial kitchen became an issue. Because the building was originally built over the ocean — and is also rising above street-level as foundations age in the rest of the area — adjusting the plumbing was a difficult job. However, it was quickly finished by Ketchikan Mechanical.
The Angaranos also faced an unexpected difficulty – the numbers involved with using local ingredients in every batch of gelato. Marco said he had to think of the “logistics of the supply chain” when it came time to have all ingredients stocked in the kitchen.
Most of Bella by the Sea's supply comes from Walmart, Safeway, A&P or Tatsuda's IGA.
Erika said that after “doing research,” the price of buying these ingredients in bulk equaled the cost of shipping freight in from off the island.
While Marco said that Bella by the Sea “wasn't on the maps” yet, the Angaranos do have plans on how to make the most of the new space.
“We want to offer a place for the community,” Erika said. “This can become a place where the community can come and meet with their friends and have celebrations and have a good time. That's what we're aiming for.”
Now that the business is settled and open, plans for the future can be made.
“We want to diversify our products,” Erika said, adding that in the future, it would be nice to sell tea, coffee and other kinds of snacks. They also want to expand from gelato to other options, such as sorbet.
For now, she said Bella by the Sea is taking “baby steps” in order to not “overextend” itself.
Currently, the shop opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 4:30 p.m., although hours will change in the future. The business will remain open until after the last cruise ship of the season leaves in early October. In coming years, Bella by the Sea would like to stay open year-round.
For the Angaranos, the “response from the community has been the most satisfying part” of the opening process.