The night before South Riding resident Thereasa Black deployed for the United States Military in the spring of 2018, she made her almost-2-year-old daughter an ice cream cake as part of an early birthday celebration.
“It was the last thing we ate together before I left for 13 months,” says Black, a naval reserve officer, licensed attorney and single mother. “She kept asking for ice cream while I was away, and my cousin who was taking care of her continued to give it to her. As a compromise, I decided to launch a gelato company because it’s ice cream, which makes me think of my daughter, but with a healthy twist.”
Just two months after her return to the United States, Black committed to that compromise to her daughter, putting her years of baking experience to the test by launching Amore Congelato (translating to frozen love) in June.
Since she launched the company this past summer, Black has sold her products—gelato, sorbet, waffles, crepes and cookies—at local farmers markets, wineries and town fairs. Yet when the weather started to cool down, she realized the need for something more stable, eventually finding a location in Pentagon Row of Arlington.
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From Blueberry Pie Gelato to Berry Delicious Sorbet, each scoop of Amore Congelato is made from all-natural products, sweetened with agave nectar instead of cane sugar, all of which Black makes herself.
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“When I was deployed in Japan, I would make cakes for the civilians of the area,” says Black of her experience in active duty prior to her daughter being born. “While I contemplated opening a bakery to begin with, I ended up going to law school when I got back from Japan. I was in active duty for four and a half years and am now in the reserve, so it’s been almost 10 years since I started with the military.”
While she recognizes the risk involved in opening an ice cream shop in the winter, Black is confident the location will lend itself essential to the product within it.
“All of the companies at Pentagon Row are not veteran-owned, but they are surrounded by veteran residents and employees,” explains Black. “That’s where mostly former military contractors come, people stationed at the Pentagon live there, the people who come to this area without their families live there. It’s a great space.”
Since finding the site—adjacent to the winter ice rink on display—Black has taken her now 3-year-old daughter to set up, take measurements and prepare for what’s to come. In addition to the sweet treats on sale, the inside of the space will be filled with inspirational, uplifting quotes throughout.
“I feel like in our society today so many people are discouraged so often,” says Black. “I want people to be inspired for once when they walk into this space. And to make people smile. Sometimes all you need is a nice phrase to do both.”
Black (and her daughter) will be celebrating the grand opening of Amore Congelato with free scoops of gelato, warm cookies and milk, Belgian waffles, music and more on Saturday, Dec. 21. // Amore Congelato: 1201 S. Joyce St., Arlington