In 2004, Jeff and Viviane Swann opened an Italian-style café in London, Ontario. Despite its success, they needed to pivot if they were to expand Coppa di Gelato. After many years in rural Middlesex County, they find themselves back in the City of London.
Five years after opening its café, Coppa di Gelato shifted to a pre-packaged model. While Coppa di Gelato is proud of being a family and friends-based business, Jeff and Viviane wanted to share their gelato and sorbet with as many people as possible.
At its first production facility in Komoka, Ontario, Coppa di Gelato established itself as a manufacturer. With continued success, Coppa di Gelato moved to a larger facility in Strathroy, Ontario and got support through the Community Futures Program (CFP).
“CF Middlesex has been a very comfortable, helpful and supportive lender in the long-term direction of Coppa di Gelato,” Jeff stated in a 2015 interview. “We were able to expand our business in a timely manner to meet our customers’ needs.”
As the Swanns conclude their loan with CF Middlesex, they recognize the CFP’s importance for rural businesses. Coppa di Gelato’s growth within a rural setting has enabled it to continue evolving in a 12,500 square-foot facility in the City of London.
Coppa di Gelato has expanded its product’s reach beyond the Middlesex-London region, with availability in stores across Southern Ontario and into Northern Ontario. Even customers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan can find Coppa di Gelato’s products.
Some of Canada’s largest retailers and grocers, including Sobeys, Farm Boy and Foodland, have driven the increased visibility of its products. Although Coppa di Gelato has reached these larger stores, it remains on the shelves of smaller retailers.
This rapid development has taken place for Coppa di Gelato amidst the COVID-19 pandemic — a significant setback for many other small businesses. Fortunately, it meant they could continue making loan payments to CF Middlesex on schedule.
“Early in the pandemic, I received a phone call from CF Middlesex stating that if COVID-19 had affected us negatively, they were there to help in any way they could,” Jeff explained. “CF Middlesex stepped forward when it was much easier to step back.”
The financial relationship between Coppa di Gelato and CF Middlesex may be ending, but the two have built a long-term connection through the CFP’s approach as a personable lender. It’s why Coppa di Gelato was a great fit as a friends-based business.
It might be hard to believe, but Jeff and Viviane see the current moment as the start of Coppa di Gelato’s journey. After reaching three provinces and countless locations, they still have not achieved their ultimate vision — to become Canada’s gelato and sorbet.
“If you haven’t had a chance to try our product, I hope you travel to one of your large or independent grocers and ask for it if it’s not there — they’ll have to bring it in for you,” Jeff concluded. “All I can say, in conclusion, is thank you for liking what we love to do.”