Jeff Martin can’t help but smile seeing all the Country Club Plaza pedestrians walking around with little blue cups.
It shows the demand was there for his new Southern Charm Gelato Shoppe. Its glass case is filled with 16 flavors — mascarpone strawberry cheesecake, red velvet, Florida coconut, unicorn, birthday cake, Georgia peach, peanut butter crunch, salted caramel and daily specials.
The gelato, which is made in small batches daily, comes in several sizes — from a single scoop in the little blue cup for $4.47 to a pint for $10. Customers also can order gelato in a traditional cone or a taco-shaped waffle cone.
Other menu items include Nitro Cold Brew Affogato (vanilla bean gelato infused with nitro coffee), macaroons, mini desserts such as creme brûlée and sometimes tiramisu, peach tea lemonade, mason jar gelato shakes, and the Southern Belle (sorbetto-infused with sparkling water blended into a smoothie).
Gelato, an Italian dessert, is thicker and smoother than ice cream.
Martin plans to open several more shops this year — in Rosemary Beach, Fla., in late August; in Scottsdale, Ariz., in late September; and then Atlanta in late November.
So far Martin is keeping to desserts. He opened his first cupcake shop in 2009 that evolved into Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery offering 205 rotating flavors and 15 flavors of small-batch ice cream based on the cupcake flavors — mint chocolate chip, birthday cake, salted caramel crunch, hot fudge sundae and more.
He is now CEO and founder of Sweet Brands International, which currently oversees the 270 Smallcakes shops, nearly all owned by franchisees, and Decadent-A Coffee and Dessert Bar in Overland Park’s Prairiefire.
Martin also wrote “Buttercream Dreams: Small Cakes, Big Scoops, and Sweet Treats,” a cookbook that weaves in tales of his entrepreneurial journey. He also has appeared on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” (Seasons 1, 2, and 7).
“People, especially millennials, don’t want the big box names anymore. They want something special and unique,” he said. “And people love dessert. It is never going to go away.”
Southern Charm looks out to the Court of the Penguins at 511 Nichols Road.
L’Occitane closed in the space in early 2017 after a decade on the Plaza.