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Long-time pastry chef’s newest venture, Gabrizio Italian Café and Bakery, is attracting the attention of people across the region to downtown Niles thanks to the support of MEDC’s Match on Main program.
Cooking has always been a passion for Desyree Alberganti since she was a teenager in Caracas, Venezuela. Fast forward to today, Alberganti, a pastry chef of 30 years, ran two successful Italian gelato shops in Las Vegas, Nevada until one day a job opportunity opened up for her husband Luigi at the University of Notre Dame, bringing her family to the Midwest.
After settling in Granger, Indiana with her family, Alberganti moved into her next adventure: an Italian bakery.
She could have chosen to open her new business anywhere in the region, but Alberganti felt at home in Niles, Michigan. “I fell in love with this town from the moment I arrived - It was magical,” said Alberganti. “I looked around Granger, South Bend, Mishawaka and other places. But when my husband brought me here during Christmas 2017 to try Front Street Pizza for the first time, I stepped out of the car and felt goosebumps, I knew this was the town.”
While she was searching for properties online in November 2018, she found Lisa Croteau, Main Street program manager for Niles Downtown Development Authority. That’s when Alberganti reached out to Croteau for assistance. Over the next few months, Croteau showed her several locations, including the Grand LV building, a former Elks Lodge, now events space.
Alberganti felt that same vibe for the Grand LV as she did when she first stepped foot in Niles. She was drawn to the history and character of the building. Although she envisioned bringing a rustic and modern feel to the 2,200-square-foot-space, she also wanted to preserve the building’s original design. Her challenge was to create a bakery in a smart way that worked with the existing layout.
“Without Lisa’s support, I’m not sure if we would be in the same spot. By informing me about creative funding solutions through the state, introducing me to new and – and not so new - Niles entrepreneurs and ultimately guiding me to the current place where Gabrizio is located played a fundamental role in the process,” said Alberganti.
In March 2019, Alberganti was selected to be part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)’s pilot program aimed at supporting small businesses in downtown Niles. As a result, she was awarded a Match on Main grant in the amount of $30,000 from the MEDC to help make Gabrizio Italian Café and Bakery a reality. Funds supported interior and kitchen layout designs as well as the purchase of equipment for the new bakery.
Gabrizio Italian Café and Bakery, located inside the Grand LV at 104 N. 3rd St. in downtown Niles, opened its doors on Sept. 15, 2019. Gabrizio offers customers a selection of Italian pastries, sandwiches, coffees and cakes for any occasion. The business also provides catering services.
“Gabrizio has given our community everything we hoped it would, and more,” said Croteau. “Since opening, Gabrizio has been steadily busy, bringing people from all over the Michiana area to downtown Niles. They are demonstrating that our transformational strategy to become a restaurant and food district will indeed bring people to downtown Niles and transform us into a dynamic, collaborative, destination community with a variety of experiential opportunities driven by motivated entrepreneurs, that showcase all that Niles has to offer.”
Introduced in March 2019, the Match on Main program was intended to provide grants of between $5,000 and $25,000 to Select or Master level Michigan Main Street communities in conjunction with eligible businesses seeking support.
The cities of Niles and Saline were selected in March 2019 as the first two communities to pilot the program.
Niles joined the Michigan Main Street program in 2004 and celebrated its 15th year of participation in the program in 2019. Since joining in 2004, Niles has seen $10.9 million in new private investment, 124 new businesses launched and 107 façade improvements as a result of the program.
For more information about the Michigan Main Street program, visit https://www.miplace.org/programs/michigan-main-street/.