The history of Jannettas: from a signmaker’s mistake to a global brand

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Photo Credit: Taylor Almeraz
Photo Credit: Taylor Almeraz
Photo: Taylor Almeraz

Jannettas Gelateria was already bustling when I arrived at 9:30 am on a Thursday. With Easter arriving that weekend and sunny weather coming later in the day, owners Nicola (whose great-grandfather founded Jannettas) and Owen Hazel were busy sending off the day’s wholesale shipments and crafting its fresh flavors.

I sat down with Charmaine Duthie, who has worked as manager at the famed ice cream parlor for two years. She personally runs the shop’s social media presence, which now includes the Instagram (Jannettas_gelateria), a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, each with hundreds of followers.

The business has certainly grown, both recently and over the past century. Founded in 1908 by Italian immigrant Benedetto Ianetta, who used money he made from selling potatoes and fish, the store has evolved from a soda and billiards parlor to an ice cream shop and café.

The name Jannettas originates from a signmaker’s mistake, and its extended history is evident on the café’s walls. Jannettas is so renowned that the television program Who Do You Think You Are? has featured it, and over Ms Duthie’s two years as man- ager, she has witnessed the parlor win six awards.

More recently, the business has “flourished,” according to Ms Duthie, because of a “scary, overrunning, major investment” renovation that removed a wall between the café and ice cream portion of the shop, uniting the staff and creating a 1950s diner atmosphere.

“We were scared about losing our older clientele, but they’ve embraced it,” Ms Duthie said. “It reminded them of the ‘50s. There’s also a better team working environment in the massive new space.”

The renovation mirrored the Hazels’ dedication to supporting local family businesses. A new logo and wall decorations were created by designers hailing from Dundee, and the breads and meats used in the café are bought in Crail and the surrounding area.

Ms Duthie said that the decision not to “sit on their laurels” and to im- prove has met with positivity from the town. A girl recently wrote to the owners requesting the name of the counter colour so she could use it to paint her walls. Customers ask for the music list so often that the store now has a Spotify playlist (which takes family- friendly suggestions from customers), and the store is a verified spot for odd flavor requests (ranging from garlic and cheese to local whiskey, gin and Irn Bru sorbet) and wedding cakes. The store’s hours have increased, and its season has been extended. Over 350 Christmas ice cream cakes are bought yearly, and parents call from as far as Hong Kong to have birthday cakes delivered to their children.

Jannettas has also innovated its menu. The store continues to sell one- of-a-kind artisanal sodas, and its most popular product remains its fresh vanilla ice cream and cheese scones, but competition prompted a move from paninis to open-faced sandwiches.

In addition to updating its lunch and snack fare, Jannettas often adds to its list of ice cream flavors. The fifth generation of owners in the store, represented by son Ross, 13, reports that flavor ideas come from family holidays. The idea for a biscuit, brownie and cookie combination was hatched in America, and pregnancy cravings brought foreign flavors home to St Andrews. Still, each of the 54 flavors available daily (from a range of 100), which are designed by in-house “palate genius” Michelle, are made with a traditional Italian ice cream making method found in Benedetto’s original vanilla recipe.

While some aspects of Jannettas have changed, its heavy involvement in the St Andrews community has remained consistent. The store is the primary ice cream provider for University events and caters many by donation. It has worked closely with the Bute Medical Society and even created a flavour especially for the On the Rocks Festival.

So, what’s next? Jannettas has incorporated biodegradable boxes and cutlery and is now seeking earth- friendly ice cream tubs. Popular offers include Waffle Wednesday and gelato afternoon tea, and new flavors like grapefruit and breakfast tea prove that the “customer is key,” as shown by Jannettas’ consistent responses to customer reviews. The family hopes to expand production and storage and perhaps even grow as a “global brand,” as the Chamber of Commerce has advised them. For now, Ms Duthie will enjoy listening to “heartwarming” customer tales, so authentic and commonplace that she may establish a “Humans of Jannettas” page.

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