Philly gets less sweet as Capogiro Gelato shuts down for good

Losses sustained after the Old City fire were too steep to overcome for the 16-year-old local business.

Stocked case at Capogiro

Stocked case at Capogiro

Danya Henninger
danya

Updated Dec. 10: After being packed to sellout over their final weekend, all Capogiro stores are now closed. “The kind words and wishes from friends, colleagues and past Capogirians broke my heart,” Stephanie Retiano wrote on Instagram. “Philadelphia is the best.”

You only have until Sunday to get your last taste of the Philly gelato National Geographic called No. 1 in the entire world.

Citing unrecoverable losses sustained after the February fire that ravaged a location in Old City, Capogiro Gelato Artisans announced Friday afternoon that the company is shutting down for good. The last day of operations will be Dec. 9.

“We are sorry that we could not get to the finish line,” wrote founders John and Stephanie Reitano in an open letter thanking Philadelphia for a “warm embrace for the past 16 years.”

Stephanie was the driving force behind the gelaterias, immersing herself in the traditional art of making the Italian frozen treat and insisting on locally-grown ingredients. “I feel like someone has died,” she told Billy Penn Friday morning. “This is my baby.”

She is currently working hard to find jobs for her dozens of trusted staff members, some of whom have worked for the company for a decade and a half.

Gelato at Capogiro

Gelato at Capogiro

Danya Henninger

Capogiro’s multiple locations include several counter-service cafes that serve gelato alongside espresso drinks, snacks and paninis, and a sister Neapolitan pizza restaurant called Capofitto, complete with dining room and bar.

It’s the latter spot that was affected by the fire last winter, which broke out a few doors down from its 233 Chestnut St. address.

The restaurant itself was not touched by any flame, but was soaked by water used to douse the blaze and was closed for several weeks. Timing couldn’t have been worse, since frozen treats don’t sell well in winter, so the company was depending on the pizzeria.

“I’m afraid this will drag Capogiro down with it,” Reitano told Billy Penn at the time.

capofitto-oldcityfire-creditdanyahenninger-02

Capofitto behind construction blockades after the fire

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Once the walls were dried out, the kitchen restocked, and the doors reopened, things didn’t get much better. The city closed the street in front of the restaurant to car and pedestrian traffic, making it nearly impossible for customers to find. Construction work continued for months afterwards, decimating business on the tourist-dependent strip.

The Reitanos, who were known in the industry for high standards, kept things afloat by taking on loans to make it to the summer — which in turn spooked several groups who’d been planning to invest in the gelato operation and expand wholesale distribution, per Reitano.

“They all said, ‘We’re in, but come back to us when you don’t have this debt!” Stephanie said, adding that she and John made many efforts to explain that without an infusion of capital, there would be no “coming back” because their company would no longer exist.

Sadly for its many fans, Capogiro may be gone forever — and if it does return, Philly might not be where. The Reitanos will lose their house because of the financial difficulties, and their youngest son is about to graduate from high school, so there’s nothing really keeping them in the city.

“I don’t know what’s next,” Stephanie said through tears. “I loved what I did. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I don’t know that it will be in Philadelphia.”

Update: Some fans have started a GoFundMe to try to help save the business.

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