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Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis

Melt Café and Gelato Bar

It’s every retailer’s goal—to create a store that’s virtually impossible to pass without stopping, and Clive Barwin thinks he’s achieved that with the design of his Melt Café and Gelato Bar stores and kiosks.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of gelato—which Barwin says describes 98 percent of his first-time customers. The highly visible heaping mounds of the brightly colored, sweet frozen treat combined with the scent of fresh-baked crepes are enough to draw anyone’s attention. And with the constant offering of samples, Barwin says he sees an extremely high conversion rate.

“Almost everyone who tastes it becomes a buyer,” says Barwin, who launched the company in 2003 in California. “The reason we have such a large interest is because of the way we merchandise our product. The look of the store, the feel of the store, and the look of the product are incredibly enticing.”

Barwin should know a bit about marketing with 35 years of business experience, including work in real estate and building high-risk startup ventures in technology. After some time off from the fast-paced business world, Barwin was in search of a new investment opportunity when Melt was born.

“I was looking for something that was low risk, but an opportunity to introduce something new in North America,” says Barwin, a native of South Africa who has spent much of his career in Australia and Canada. “Gelato has been around for hundreds of years and is sold on every street corner in Italy. Premium American ice cream is on a downward curve; Americans are looking for a new and exciting treat to take its place.”

Barwin believes gelato’s healthful benefits will help it take on traditional ice cream; it’s made with milk rather than butter fat and has one-third of ice cream’s fat. Gelato also has less air, giving it a smoother, creamier texture. The density allows it to be displayed in the heaping mounds that are so enticing to Melt’s customers. Melt also sells Italian sorbetto, most of which is both dairy- and fat-free.

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