Tim Heaton and his wife, Sandra, have held a variety of jobs (he even dispatched AAA tow trucks in Southern California), and in 2012, as they pondered their next move, thoughts turned to their favorite treat: gelato. “At the time, we were living in the Caribbean, where I was the captain of a liveaboard yacht that took people on dive excursions,” Tim says. “We were both dive instructors with captain’s licenses, but boating wasn’t something we wanted to do as a business. The idea popped up: Could we make a living making gelato?”
In 2013, the couple completed a 3-day class in New York City with Gianluigi Dellaccio, a gelato master from Italy, feeling confident they could be successful at it. The following year, they moved to Hawai‘i Island and opened Gypsea Gelato in a small space in Kealakekua that housed their office, retail store, and a 300-square-foot kitchen they shared with a pastry chef. Today, the company operates a 3,500-square-foot factory and store in neighboring Kainaliu and 2 other stores in Kailua-Kona and Waikoloa Beach Resort.
Inspiration for flavors often comes from things Tim and Sandra enjoy eating. Such was the case with Tom Kha, which, like its namesake (a traditional Thai soup), contains ginger, lemongrass, coconut, and turmeric. Those ingredients are sourced locally along with many others, including coffee, mint, lemon, orange, dragon fruit, white pineapple, and apple banana.
Ten “staples,” including Tom Kha, are usually on Gypsea Gelato’s menu. An additional 10 to 12 are available on a rotating basis, chosen from some 500 flavors the Heatons have created over the years. Options might be Mashti (rosewater, saffron, and pistachio); Pele’s Kiss (chocolate, cinnamon, and Hawaiian chile pepper); and Goat Cheese Salad (goat cheese, strawberries, pecans, and balsamic glaze).
The Heatons are hands-on with production and eat gelato every day, whether it’s tasting batches in the factory or savoring it from pints they always have at home. “We love making gelato,” Tim says, “and we love, love, love eating it!”