Dojo Gelato Expands into Northside

Since 2009, Dojo Gelato has exclusively operated out of just 220 square feet of space in a corner of Findlay Market’s market house. But come spring of 2016, they will have expanded their production into a second, 1,000-square-foot building in Northside.

click to enlarge Michael Christner and the forthcoming Northside Dojo Gelato
Michael Christner and the forthcoming Northside Dojo Gelato

Since 2009, Dojo Gelato has exclusively operated out of just 220 square feet of space in a corner of Findlay Market’s market house. But come spring of 2016, they will have expanded their production into a second, 1,000-square-foot building in Northside.

Owner Michael Christner studied classic gelato making in New York City and attended Penn State’s Ice Cream Short Course at the Berkey Creamery. It was always his dream to have his own independent ice cream shop, and after moving to Cincinnati from Austin, Texas with his wife seven years ago, he decided to make that dream a reality.

While Findlay Market has been home to both Dojo’s production and retail, this move will allow for improvement and expansion at both locations.

“When I first started the business plan,” Christner says, “I didn’t want to go as far as the corny stereotype (for the shop name). I couldn’t go super Italian. A ‘dojo’ is usually a very small and very focused training place where you come to practice something repetitively to achieve perfection.”

Accordingly, Dojo Gelato focuses on freshness, quality and perfecting the art of making authentic gelato and sorbetto. They use only fresh ingredients, growth-hormone-free milk from Ohio and produce from local farmers when possible.

Christner constantly works to harness his craft through his process and creativity. Dojo’s gelato and sorbetto is made daily in small batches, and flavors rotate on a weekly basis. Staple ingredients include Mexican vanilla beans, Belgian chocolate and housemade salty caramel, while some creative flavor combinations include carrot mango sorbetto with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, a twist on the creamsicle.

This coming spring, Dojo will move its production entirely to Northside, which will free up nearly a third of their space at Findlay. “At Findlay, the gelato is made on a four-by-four rolling cart,” Christner says. “It’s hilarious yet impressive that we work with such a small space.”

With the plans in motion to move, there will be room for another dipping cabinet at Findlay, which will allow Dojo to increase from 12 to 18 flavors and offer more retail goods, including Italian drinking chocolate (European-style hot chocolate with steamed milk), coffee and espresso drinks and a variety of floats made with either espresso, root beer or Mexican Coca-Cola.

The Northside location, ironically enough, will be in the old J.F. Dairy Corner building, which was formerly a soft-serve stand. Christner hopes to honor that tradition by serving sundaes and soft serve, while also being the only spot in Northside to serve gelato.

“I’m hoping to create a drive-in-meets-café-meets-creamy-whip hybrid,” he says. “The vision for the Northside location is to provide as much of a café vibe as I can bring to the place, while still maintaining an ice-cream shop feel.”

There are also plans to make the parking lot more family-friendly, providing space for live music.

With the expansion of space in Northside, Christner can also work on technically advanced flavors and make everything in-house. “It has always been my desire to make everything in-house,” he says. “With the new space, we can make our own cookies and candy bars and more.”

Finding the Northside location has been three years in the making. “I lived there before children and I looked there initially, but nothing was available,” Christner says.  “Now, I am really excited to be there with that independent spirit.”

From remodeling the building to completing the electrical work needed to accommodate their Italian-made gelato freezers to logistical issues with street work, there is much to be done before the Northside location can officially open its doors. But Christner is optimistic.

“We’ve had so much interest from customers and regulars at Findlay about the Northside location, everybody’s going bonkers,” he says. “But with the massive street-widening project, I can only say we’ll be open in the spring, but I’m definitely hopeful.”


DOJO GELATO will be located at 1735 Blue Rock St., Northside. Follow their progress at facebook.com/dojogelato.