A sweet era is coming to an end in downtown Brevard: After 13 years, Kiwi Gelato is closing its doors.
Since 2007, Kiwi Gelato has been a beloved down-town staple for residents and visitors alike, offering homemade gelato, delicious coffee and affogatos, and a warm and friendly space to gather and to have a chat with proprietor Richard Coadwell.
Coadwell, a native New Zealander – or "Kiwi" – arrived in Brevard with his wife, Heather Layton, whom he'd met when Layton was teaching overseas. Originally, Coadwell dreamed of owning a coffee shop, but a chance encounter with a pan of homemade gelato at a tiny coffee shop in Saluda changed his mind. After taking one bite, the couple was wowed by the unique taste. Layton immediately approached the owner, who had trained at PreGel America, an Italian-owned and operated artisanal dessert company in Charlotte.
Back in Brevard, Coadwell and Layton couldn't get gelato off their minds. Neighbors told the couple about a new chocolate shop called Downtown Chocolates, opening in the Times Arcade Alley. George Williams, the owner, was interested in serving gelato.
Coadwell and Layton purchased a batch freezer and display case, took courses at PreGel, and in 105 square feet of space, Kiwi Gelato was born.
It wasn't long before Kiwi Gelato was a special part of the Brevard community. One day, two Brevard Music Center musicians who wandered down the alley suggested that Kiwi Gelato be sold at Brevard Music Center events.
"Best idea ever," Layton said.
From 2008 until the summer of 2019, countless music lovers spooned Kiwi Gelato's homemade gelato into happy mouths while listening to the sounds of local and international musicians, comedians and more, roll and rollick through our mountains. The first place they ever made money from their gelato, Coadwell said, was at the Mountain Song Music Festival. When festival organizer John Felty said, "Come on down and sell some," they did.
Layton drove to Asheville, borrowed a tent from friends and pieced it together, Coadwell said. They got a chest freezer from another friend's basement.
"We made 10 or so pans," Coadwell said. "They were gone in an hour."
Both Coadwell and Layton cite Kiwi Gelato's relationship with BMC as their favorite thing about making gelato.
"The highlight of owning the business," Coadwell said, "was the relationship with the music center and all the people we met there."
"I really liked the music center kids and staff coming back summer after summer," Layton said. "The energy of the young campers and the kids from county schools was priceless. And we had so many fun friends who would come and work."
The move to Kiwi Gelato's current location on Main Street came in 2010. Coadwell and Layton wanted indoor dining and a place for folks to gather. A friendly kiwi bird became their logo. With its warm brick walls, an assortment of photographs and art from New Zealand and by local Brevard artists, and even a kids' corner filled with books and wooden toys, Kiwi Gelato quickly became a favorite spot for visitors and locals alike.
"Main Street Brevard is a special place among the big box stores and strip malls that much of American has become," Layton said. "I liked being downtown, being part of a community. I felt connected. I liked educating people about gelato."
So what's the difference between ice cream and gelato?
Coadwell said it's all about "fat content, density and the freezing point."
Gelato has less butter fat and air, so it's denser. The case doesn't have to be as cold, and the point of freezing is different from ice cream.
"It's a math equation to get it to turn out perfectly," Coadwell said. "I don't know that I've ever made a perfect gelato. That was what drove me to keep making it better."
Over the years Kiwi Gelato has given back to the larger Brevard community in countless ways, donating gelato and gift certificates to a number of nonprofit events across Transylvania County. From fundraisers at Transylvania County schools, to Holmes Team (cancer research), Free Rein, Rise and Shine, Augustine Literacy and more, no community gathering – and many a birthday party – has been without a batch of delicious gelato.
Serving their gelato at festivals like the White Squirrel Festival, Halloween-fest, the 4th of July and the Christmas Parade are memories Coadwell and Layton hold dear.
It all comes back to community.
"It was fun to see kids grow up in our community," Coadwell said. "Being brought in by their parents, then they start hanging out with their friends, then they're back from college, then they grow up and get a job and move somewhere else."
They always stop in when they're in town, he said.
Over the pandemic year, Coadwell and Layton relished the time they got to devote to their own family, which includes their son, Rion, age 12, who grew up in the gelato shop. But after devoting 13 years to a demanding small business, it's time to reevaluate.
"This whole year of down time gave us an opportunity to figure out how owning a gelato shop fits into our family life," Coadwell said. "It gave us time to assess how our family's going, what's important to our family and how gelato fits into our family."
Will there be a Kiwi Gelato again? Hopefully, Coadwell said.
"I'd like to think there's still a place for gelato in our family in the future," he said.
It's hard to imagine downtown Brevard without its sweetest, and certainly most unique, artisanal dessert shop.
"Everyone's sad about it," said Kevin Jones, a longtime customer and friend (whose favorite flavor is pistachio). "Just yesterday someone stopped his car in the middle of traffic, rolled down the window and asked me if Kiwi Gelato was reopening. We as a community are personally fond of (Coadwell and Layton]), as well as their products."
As much as they're looking forward to more family time, Coadwell and Layton will miss Kiwi Gelato being a part of Brevard's unique community.
"For a lot of businesses, not just ours, people are coming in who are in a good mood," Coadwell said. "So, it's easy to do your job. Not every time, but most of the time."
He adds: "We're lucky to have had it."
"We are so grateful to all of our patrons and supporters throughout the years," Layton said. "We hope to see many familiar faces out and about."
Katherine Scott Crawford is a local author and friend of the Layton-Coadwell family. Her all-time Kiwi Gelato favorite is affogato with chocolate.