Iorio's Hosts Events to Bring in Customers and Give Back to the Community
When brother and sister duo Nick and Mary Lemmer were growing up, they frequently visited their extended family in Italy. Along with the trips to ‘The Boot,’ came a love for gelato, and a later inspiration to open up their own gelato business. A business they opened in East Lansing in 2015, named after their great grandparents, Luigi and Maria Iorio.
In keeping with that family orientation, Iorio’s is focused on inviting customers into their space, and providing a sweet treat. They invite customers to stay a while, and maybe read a little from their in-store community library.
Retail Operations Manager Tim Wagner, and Store Manager Emily Roth believe partnering with local community groups and organizations will help get more customers into the door, and once in, they’ll certainly return for the gelato. Iorio’s Gelato is hosting their latest event, in partnership with MSUFCU on Thursday, March 22 from 3 to 4 p.m. The free financial educator seminar aims to help college seniors prepare for graduation. Topics covered will include budgeting, saving, 401K basics, student loan payback and more.
“We feel like we have a great product,” Wagner said, “we want people to get that initial taste for Iorio’s, and we look at what events will bring people in.”
While there are pros and cons to working at a smaller, family business, Wagner said staff at Iorio’s can focus on the things that are important to the company.
“A big piece I’ve been focusing in on the past couple months is doing more events,” Roth said. “Finding people that we connect with in different groups to bring them in for different seminars and different specials that we can put on with them.”
Iorio’s first big event was in partnership with the local Humane Society. They brought in 12-week-old puppies for adoption. After the event, Iorio’s donated a portion of their sales back to the Humane Society. Giving back is a big foundation of what Iorio’s stands for, according to Roth.
“We do the events to try to bring people in and get more exposure,” Roth said, “but we also try to partner with different groups in the community, and help them in whatever way we are able to.”
Above: L to R Iorio's customers Mansai Iyer, and Selma Kijamet.
Wagner was originally part of the team at the flagship store in Ann Arbor, but now shares time between the two locations.
“There’s such a wide, diverse group of people here – whether it’s students, or families, professors, young adults, older folks,” Wagner said of East Lansing, “there’s really a big variety of types of people that live in this area.”
“If you look at companies that share our values – I know Zingerman’s is by no means a small business, but they have a lot of the same values: placing importance on people and customers, and doing things the right way even if it takes a little bit longer to do. We’re very lucky to be able to partner with them,” Wagner said.
On Wednesday’s, Iorio’s hosts live music, and in the summer, they open up the patio to accommodate even more guests. Past events have included something for everyone: a holiday pop-up market, and a comedy improv workshop. For Earth Day on Sunday, April 22, Iorio’s plans to host a clothing swap in its East Lansing store.
“Everybody brings their gently used clothes that they don’t want to wear anymore,” Roth said. You go through and people get to trade, so you end up taking stuff home, but then you get a refresh on your closet and you get rid of the stuff you don’t wear anymore.” Everything left over will be donated to Salvation Army.
Roth, a Business Administration student at Ferris State University, considers herself lucky to have flexibility and hands-on experience in running a business.
“Whenever I have an idea, if I have a plan and everything to go with it, they let me run it, and that’s something I don’t feel like you get to experience a lot,” Roth said of Iorio’s owners and managers.
As for upcoming events, Roth is hoping to host workshops like gardening or flower arrangements, and to partner with a local brewery/winery for tastings and pairings.
Iorio's Gelato is located at 1034 Trowbridge Road.
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