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Meet Owner of Iorio’s Gelateria: Nick Lemmer

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mich chapter.

Name: Nicolas Lemmer

Hometown: Lansing, MI

Year: Senior

Major: Social Computing


Meet Nick, the owner of Ann Arbor’s very own Iorio’s Gelateria. Behind his friendly demeanor and down-to-earth attitude, you might never guess that he spends his time juggling school, running his own business, and managing the women’s basketball team. However, despite his busy lifestyle, this triple threat seems to be handling it pretty well. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with him and learn more about his story.


Her Campus: How did Iorio’s come about?

Nick Lemmer: My great-grandfather emigrated from central Italy to Philadelphia. He was an architect who built apartments along the coast, so that’s where we get our entrepreneurial root. When we were kids, my sister Mary and I would always get Italian ice when we visited Philadelphia. We liked it so much that we wanted to bring it to Michigan. My sister decided to take on the challenge, and in 2004, she found a supplier in Philadelphia. We bought two catering carts and for a couple of years, we went around to fairs, carnivals, festivals, and any other event we could get our hands on. It was pretty successful for a summer job, but then we started thinking, “Why don’t we have a store?” So in 2006, we opened up at a local farmers market in Lansing and started selling there. Later, we decided to sell gelato because its more Italian, and the people in Lansing loved it! Eventually, both Mary and I went to school in Ann Arbor, and the summer between my sophomore and junior year, we met a real estate developer and now we’re here!


HC: How did you choose the name Iorio’s?

NL: Iorio is my Grandmother’s maiden name.


HC: Do you and your sister still work at the Iorio’s store?

NL: Mary and I mostly do the back end work. However, she is working for another company in San Francisco at the moment. We currently employ about twenty people – two high school students and the rest are all University of Michigan students.


HC: How do you balance being an entrepreneur with being a student?

NL: I have had to made sacrifices in my academics and other aspects in my life to run a business, but I have found a healthy balance between doing the things I want to do and succeeding in school. I feel like I am able to get it all done because I like doing what I do, and as long as we have great people working for us – which we do – it’s going to work.


HC: After you graduate, what are you hoping to do? How is that going to affect your relationship with Iorio’s?

NL: I have applied to some jobs, but I haven’t found anything I really like yet. It’s important to me that I find something I like and I can see myself enjoying. We have been in preliminary talks about opening more stores and expanding the businesses, either in Ann Arbor or other cities in Michigan. I haven’t really made up my mind yet, but if I could make it work, I would love to be running a gelato shop and selling gelato for as long as I can.


HC: Have you ever tried to start any other businesses?

NL: During my freshman year, there was this whole buzz on Facebook confessions pages, like “Texts From Last Night,” so a few friends and I decided to build a website called overheard@u.com off of a similar idea. It ran for nine months while we lived in the dorms, and it was pretty successful, but not enough to spend all of our time on it, so we ended up shutting it down after freshman year. It was a really great learning experience though. We would have Skype calls at 2 am in the morning with people who didn’t speak English very well, because we outsourced all our coding overseas.


HC: Do you have any business ideas for the future?

NL: I want to look into the prospects of a shared kitchen among food entrepreneurs because I know starting off for us, it was difficult having access to expensive equipment and machines. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just to build a state-regulated commercial kitchen and you would also need to get a license.


HC: What is the best part about running Iorio’s?

NL: The people – not only the ones I’ve had a chance to work with, but also the customers. I love being able to build relationships with people I never would have imagined otherwise.


HC: On the flipside, what is the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with?

NL: If something goes wrong, you have to be the one to fix it. If there’s turmoil between the business and the building owner, you have to be the one to resolve it. One time I got a call at 3 am from our building manager saying that our store had flooded. It turns out, our grease trap was clogged and it started overflowing into the lobby. It smelled like rotten eggs, and the whole store was covered in it. I didn’t want to call a plumber so I did it by myself. That’s not something most normal people have to deal with. In another instance, I once went into the store and noticed that all the gelato had melted onto the floor because instead of turning off the light, someone accidentally turned off the power. However, now I’ll turn your question around; while these little inconveniences suck, I find it fun because it goes to show how much responsibility I get have. For example, having to cleaning up a greasy mess – I could never be able to that if I was working for someone else.


HC: Do you have any advice for someone trying to start their own business?

NL: My best advice is to just do it. So many people are good at coming up with ideas, but you rarely see people execute. We were fortunate enough that everything fell into place and the risk was minimal. But if there are risks, it’s much easier to recover when you’re young.


HC: What is your favorite gelato flavor?

NL: It’s ironic because I’m actually lactose intolerant, so I typically avoid large quantities of gelato. However, we do have a fabulous selection of dairy-free flavors. We had this honey crisp apple sorbet was unbelievable – it tasted like a froze apple sauce mixture. As far as gelatos go, I really like our St. Patrick’s Day flavors because they are often paired with alcohol and beer. Our chocolate stout flavor, which is a dark chocolate Guinness mixture, is to die for.


HC: What else do you do outside of running a business?

NL: I used to be involved in Alpha Phi Omega, a community service organization. I have also been involved in the women’s basketball team – I started off as a practice player. Then after my freshman year, I became a paid manager. From junior year until now, I’ve been the head manager that manages all of the other thirty managers that work the team. I organize the logistics, and I also used to travel with the team for away games. I played basketball in high school, and I had a passion for it, so being able to be involved in that again is great.


HC: What has been your favorite memory at the University of Michigan?

NL: The most valuable thing from college is the people that I’ve met here, and now they are all doing incredible things. My favorite memory was when three of my best friends and I went on a road trip to see Michigan play Alabama in a football game in Dallas. We stopped by several other cities, such as Memphis, Austin, and San Antonio, and we had a crazy time. Just being cramped in a car with three of your favorite people for 25 hours can be so much fun.