Terri Ann Nicholls made her passion into a product.
But while other entrepreneurs near her Edgehill Village store have done the same and focused on selling things like clothes and coffee, her love is an icy one.
Since she opened Legato Gelato this summer, Nicholls said her goals for the store have been clear-cut.
“Our philosophy is simply to make the best gelato daily, to make it from scratch and to source the best ingredients,” she said. “Whenever I hand someone a cup of gelato and see the smile on their face, it’s the greatest feeling. I think ‘I did that, I made that.’”
And when Nicholls takes credit for making the shop’s gelato, she means it.
At 8 a.m., she starts making the stores’ 12 flavors of the day from scratch and doesn’t stop until around 2:30 p.m. She said her flavors are made with some of the finest local ingredients, like milk from a country farm in Kentucky and goat cheese for their signature flavors from a dairy farm in Franklin. Nearly everything else is directly imported from Italy, the country Nicholls said does gelato better than anyone else.
Nicholls’ love for frozen desserts has been lifelong. It started when she and her family went out for ice cream every Saturday.
“Then, I did a semester abroad in Spain during college,” she said. “That’s where I tried my very first gelato, and was immediately hooked into a gelato love affair. It got so bad that I had an average of three cups of gelato every day for five weeks straight. And I figured, either I was definitely on to something great, or I had a serious problem.”
That problem turned into an opportunity for Nicholls, who also had an entrepreneurial streak.
“I have always wanted to own my own shop,” she said. “It was a dream of mine and I only recently mustered up the courage to do so. It wasn’t an ‘on a whim’ type decision. It definitely took a lot of research.”
Even with all Nicholls’ work to start her store, or gelateria as it is formally known, she knew it had to be unique to be successful. And despite nearly a dozen ice cream or frozen yogurt spots within two miles of Edgehill Village, Nicholls said her shop stands out and reflects her own personality.
“My store represents me, and who I am, and everything I believe to be good, thoughtful, and delicious,” she said. “I think when my customers see my gelateria, they agree and come back again and again.”
The startup also tries to cater to customers who have more specific needs. Typically, three to four of the store’s daily flavors are vegan. Legato collaborates with other area companies by selling cookies from a Nashville sweet shop and honey from a beekeeper in West Tennessee.
Nicholls said those connections with customers are also reflective of the neighborhood she and her husband moved to two years ago.
“We really felt we instantly became a part of the community,” she said. “Especially now that I’ve opened my own business, I feel deeply connected to my neighborhood.”
Legato Gelato is open noon-9 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays and from noon-8 p.m. Sundays.