SUTTONS BAY — Tony Pazzi and Jennifer Giesler were living in Chicago when they decided to make a break for northern Michigan.
“We just kind of really were tired of the grind of the cities and we wanted to be in a beautiful place,” said Pazzi, adding that the couple also has lived in Seattle and Kansas City, Mo. “We’re struggling artists so we figured we might as well be struggling artists in a beautiful place.”
There was just one problem: how to weather the seasonal nature of their adopted region.
The couple came up with a plan that combined their love of color and texture with their love of flavor. Now they’re both artists and artisans as owners of Little Bee’s Italian Ice. The cozy business in downtown Suttons Bay is part "ice cream" parlor and part art gallery.
“We love gelato, we love Italian ice and sorbet. And we wanted to have something that’s different from the dairy places,” Pazzi said. “We also wanted a job that would complement who we are: the decoration, the presentation, the way we scoop the gelato and put it all together.
“The other thing is we like it that it’s a seasonal thing, so we can make art in the winter.”
The couple opened in June 2011 with classic fruit-based Italian ice and sorbet and gradually added gelato in response to customer requests. They named their business after Pazzi’s Italian grandmother, Berlinda, who died in March at age 102.
Giesler, a painter, created their soft, vintage-look logo from a childhood portrait of "Little Bee" with a large bow in her hair.
“The thing with her is she was such a sweet lady, and kind and nice, and she had a great sense of humor. She represents who we want to be, too,” Pazzi said. “And it encompasses who we are and what we try to do here. She worked hard her whole life. Her father was a coal miner. She was a nurse’s aide in World War II.”