There’s no better way to get to the heart of a city than through the people who live there. In “Person of Interest,” we ask local Ann Arborites, clearly in love with their city, to take us on a personal tour and tell us what makes it so special to them. This month, we chatted with Mary Lemmer, one of the founders of Iorio’s Gelateria.
Current: How long have you lived in Ann Arbor?
Mary Lemmer: I lived in Ann Arbor for 7 years before moving to San Francisco. Now I split my time between Ann Arbor and San Francisco.
What has the experience of opening up the first gelateria in Ann Arbor been like?
It has been a journey! It was fun, challenging, energizing, exhausting, all at the same time. There are parts of the journey that are similar to how we imagined, but there were also bumps along the road that no one expected. That’s what made it interesting, fun, and kept us on our toes!
Iorio’s is located on Williams Street right by the Diag. Do you get some college students?
Yes, especially since we are also conveniently located near apartment buildings, home to many college students, and close to some favorite off-campus student dining options.
How do you come up with your flavors?
Our flavor inspiration comes from a few places: 1) From traditional Italian flavors, like pistachio, hazelnut, chocolate, strawberry, and so forth. We set out to create an authentic Italian gelateria experience, so having these flavors is a must! 2) From our customers. We get flavor requests all the time, so we use those to inspire what we create. After all, we are creating a treat for our customers. They should get a say! 3) From our team. We have a creative team of gelatistas who have vivid imaginations and ideas about flavors, so they certainly play a role in flavor development.
What do you think makes Ann Arbor unique?
Ann Arbor is unique thanks to the variety of people in the community. There are students (undergraduate and graduate), families, young professionals, professors – all different ages and from all around the world. Everyone brings their own experiences, culture, and mindset for a unique place to live, work, study, and eat!
Speaking of eating, any recommendations for breakfast, lunch, or dinner spots?
I’m a Zingerman’s enthusiast! I worked there during college and love the Deli for lunch and the Roadhouse for dinner. Also a big fan of Frita Batidos. I love the authentic experience there and the food is delicious as well.
Do you have any favorite stores or coffee shops?
Iorio’s is open for coffee now, so of course that’s my favorite coffee shop! As for stores, I love Bivuoac. It’s a great example of an Ann Arbor gem of a store that has been around in the community for awhile now.
Where’s your favorite outdoor space?
The Arboretum! The trees, the flowers, the river. It is so peaceful and beautiful.
What has been your best discovery in Ann Arbor?
Kayaking the Huron River. It took me 5 years of living in Ann Arbor to discover this fun and relaxing activity.
What do you miss most if you’ve been away?
The Ann Arbor charm. It feels like a small city and a small town at the same time.
If you could change one thing about the city, what would it be?
Warmer winters (which seems to be happening) and more young people that are in between being a student and starting a family.