The Sweetest Thing
MARCO CASOL The Venice native runs PreGel from a $15 million headquarters in Concord.
Marco Casol's big idea is to make gelato ubiquitous in the U.S. -- and to do it from Concord
It's the ambition of many gelato purveyors to usurp ice cream and frozen yogurt as this country's cool and creamy treat of choice. But Marco Casol, head of PreGel America, won't be content until the Italian delicacy outpaces even coffee as the New World's favorite habit.
From his company's ultramodern headquarters in Concord, Casol dreams of an America where gelaterias are as ubiquitous as Starbucks, and the office coffee run is replaced by a daily dash for scoops of stracciatella or zabaglione.
"Gelato is not just Italian ice cream, it's a traditional part of our culture," says Casol, thirty-eight, who hails from Venice. His family has owned and operated gelato shops throughout Europe for more than a century. "I believe that one day gelato will also be part of American culture," he says.
Casol said "Ciao, y'all" to the Charlotte region in 2002, when he launched the North American subsidiary of Italy-based PreGel in an office and distribution facility off Arrowood Road in Charlotte. Last year he moved the company to its present home, a $15 million, 150,000-square-foot building with a super-sophisticated steel, glass, and white leather interior, just a few miles from Lowe's Motor Speedway.
PreGel doesn't actually make gelato, it makes the stuff that's used to make gelato, and you can sample its product locally at Fourth Ward's Pie Town and Huntersville's Café Mia. Currently, the gelato base (along with other PreGel dessert ingredient offerings) is imported from Italy for more than 1,000 North American customers, but Casol is setting up a manufacturing operation as well as a research-and-development unit at the Concord site.
PreGel has also taught hundreds of people to use its ingredients at its state-of-the art facility, where instructors emphasize that cafés, restaurants, and other shops that offer gelato are not just selling a product. Al contrario: at its best, eating gelato is an experience that will make customers feel they are living la dolce vita, right here in the USA, for about $3.50 a scoop.
"We like to think of it as a mini-vacation in a cup," says Casol.
Photo: MARCO CASOL The Venice native runs PreGel from a $15 million headquarters in Concord.