We started making gelato in 2002 in a little shop on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California. Because of our success there, we grew to open stores in San Francisco and Walnut Creek as well. But we didn’t just add stores. We also began to take the process of making gelato a lot more seriously.
In the beginning, we imported the very same ingredients that the gelaterias in Italy use. The problem was those authentic ingredients were cans of goo and bags of powder. Believe it or not, cans of goo and bags of powder is how most gelato in Italy is made. In a sense, that had sadly become the authentic Italian way to make gelato. Here in Northern California, we are surrounded by high quality, local ingredients. Why buy pistachio goo from Italy when amazing pistachios are grown right here in California?
Starting with Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in 2004 we began crafting our own flavors and forging new friendships. Today, our ingredients are almost exclusively grown or made in Northern California. For us, local isn’t just a marketing gimmick. We work directly with people who also craft their own product. Lance and Dave at St George Spirits taught us how to better incorporate alcohol into our gelato. Brad at TCHO Chocolate taught us about source ingredients. Michael Recchiuti encouraged creativity. James at Blue Bottle inspired us to create a new process for making coffee gelato and ice cream. Tom and Mike at Semifreddi’s gave us confidence in our business. And the list of local partners continues to grow.
Our gelato production for the foodservice market grew by a leap in 2007 when we began selling our gelato to Whole Foods Market. In 2011 we launched our first grocery product, Bar Gelato, which became an instant hit. By 2014 we were selling Bar Gelato in over 300 locations and we were getting pretty good at driving all over Northern California in our freezer trucks. This led us to start a new business segment to deliver not only our own products but other small and medium sized ice cream brands. NaiaDSD now carries over 100 different frozen dessert items.
Our growing experience and expertise in making and formulating gelato and ice cream products has led to our work in creating, improving and growing other ice cream brands including St Benoît Creamery, Clover-Stornetta Farms, and New Barn.
Chris Tan, Co-Founder
Chris had a small nest egg from the high-tech startup world and wanted to hatch a low-tech startup. He and his best friend Bobby loved Thai food and gelato, and couldn’t find great examples of either in the Bay Area. They thought a restaurant would be too complex, so they decided on gelato. After opening the doors they quickly realized 1) enjoying great gelato is only a teeny part of crafting great gelato; and 2) small business is much more than crafting great gelato. Thankfully with the support of partners and friends they held onto their wild ride and grew the company.
They christened their gelateria on Shattuck Avenue after Bobby’s daughter, Naia, who was born around the same time as the store.
Trevor Morris, Co-Founder
Trevor grew up milking cows on a family dairy in Idaho. When he left he promised he would never get involved in milk and cows again. He then spent the next 15 years in the restaurant business and when he left, he promised he would never deal with food again. On his first trip to Italy he tasted gelato and decided to break those past promises and put his experience in milk and restaurants to work.
Bruce Orlando, Director of Sales
Bruce is a second-generation gelato-loving Italian-American and a second-generation dairy and ice cream distributor. Working on dairy delivery trucks since he was old enough to remember, Bruce took the family business and grew it to be the top Häagen-Dazs and Dreyer’s ice cream distributor in Sacramento. Crystal Creamery acquired them and Bruce continued on as their Director of Sales for all DSD (Direct Store Delivery) products, prior to joining the Naia team and figuring out how to get Bar Gelato to 350+ stops in Northern California and founding NaiaDSD, a boutique ice cream and gelato distributor.
Jason Williams, Production Manager
Jason earned a full-ride scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America right out of high school based on an essay that was mostly true. Despite the workload and constantly being yelled at, Jason’s love and passion for food grew at the CIA. After graduating he took a job running a busy kitchen that mostly fried food where he spent his whole day hot and sweaty. He jumped at the opportunity to join Naia where he now spends most of his day freezing.
Jessica Kennedy, Store Manager
Jessica fell in love with gelato while studying in Rome, Italy. Upon returning to San Francisco she scoured the Bay Area for best gelato until she found Naia. For the past two and a half years she has been educating the masses on what true, authentic, gelato consists of, and has loved every second of it. Some may guess she would be sick of the gelato by now, but she still comes in on her days off to indulge – especially to eat her favorite flavor, Riso.