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San Clemente Journal

Lucky Dog Gelato

Mar 18, 2022 10:00AM ● By Mary Colarik

Dustin and Noel Brady, at their new yogurt shop on South El Camino Real.

How many people want to have a job that makes other people happy? We hear a lot about following our passions, using our gifts and talents in our careers so we ourselves find happiness and fulfillment in our chosen career, but what if we turned that idea around and found a brand-new career guaranteed to bring a smile to the customer’s face—making the customer happy?
That’s what Noelle Brady, owner of Lucky Dog Gelato, resolved to do when she and her husband, Dustin Brady decided to pursue the gelato business. The dream to have a job to make people happy took almost four years to come to fruition, finding the right spot, getting the permits, doing the build out, not to mention spending three summers in Italy learning how to make high quality gelato. The couple were learning everything about the business from the ground up, finally opening on South El Camino Real on August 6, 2021.

Once you step into Lucky Dog Gelato, Brady’s background in visual merchandising is apparent. The interior has a clean look with a touch of fun with one wall featuring a brightly painted mural depicting their two dogs, Mr. Darcy and Bingley, cocker spaniel/dachshund rescues from a farm in Arkansas.     

Noelle who hails from New Jersey and New York spent several years in retail store design and merchandising for Gap, Inc., including Baby Gap, Kids Gap and Banana Republic, moving on to visual merchandising for William Sonoma/West Elm, and finally to a seven-year stint on the first ever apparel merchandising/visual team for Wal Mart. Brady says she learned a lot from all her retail experience, plus enjoying the perks of great pay and benefits.

 A young breast cancer survivor, Noelle visited Southern California in 2011 to participate in Tour de Pink, a bike ride fundraiser for the Young Survivor Coalition that helps provide needs for young women who are breast cancer patients, survivors and thrivers. During the three-day ride from Thousand Oaks to Pt. Magu she met her future husband, Dustin Brady, a San Clemente native and graduate of San Clement High School. His fiancé had passed away from breast cancer in 2010. The two bonded on the ride and began a two and a half year, long-distance relationship. Noel was transferred from New York to Arkansas and began spending her weekends traveling to San Clemente, and in 2015 Dustin and Noelle married. She re-located to San Clemente and took a job with Oakley, Inc. Laid off in Oakley’s companywide layoff in 2017, she decided she was done with corporate politics and wanted to start a business that would make people happy.
Dustin and Noelle started looking in North Beach and on Del Mar for a good place to open a gelato business. They met the developer of the new condos at Ten10 Santiago and knew that there would be space at the street level for eateries when the condos were completed and occupied. So the duo began researching the area. They sat for hours across the street at Biggie’s and Zebra House Coffee watching traffic go by. They saw lots of people walking their young children and dogs and biking and realized the southwest section of San Clemente was a bustling community. There was plenty of on-street parking available and it seemed like the perfect spot to open their new business venture.

While Dustin kept his day job in marketing at Shimano American in Irvine, Noelle spent three summers in Italy learning all about gelato. Her first summer was spent in Bologna at the Gelato University where she learned through intensive study about the science and math of sugar and fats and how the different ratios affect the quality of the frozen product. She learned how to balance the sugar, milk and cream and the difference between ice cream and gelato. Ice Cream is served at a much colder temperature, the cold shocks the tongue, gelato has a lesser butterfat content of seven to nine percent, has less air, is denser and served warmer than ice cream. Gelato is easier to taste and more decadent.

The second summer Noelle headed to Florence working with the head of the Florentine Gelato Guild where she met Vetulio Bondi who became her mentor, teaching her how to build recipes, using her own ingredients, “no bag to machine” and his guidance and inspiration to always “Make it Honest.” (This quote hangs on one wall at Lucky Dog Gelato). Finally, the third summer Noelle headed to Grossetto a walled city in Southern Italy. Living in the city among all Italians she attended Gelato Naurale Academy an intense program that once again taught the technique of building recipes from scratch with a focus on vegan and sorbet options.

By the time the Bradys were ready to open Lucky Dog Gelato, Noel knew how to make artisanal gelato, she doesn’t buy any mass-produced base like most other gelato businesses, but uses only locally sourced ingredients including milk, organic sugar and organic fruits. She put together a calendar of seasonal fruits, so she can rotate some offerings according to what is in season.
Noelle entered some of her offerings at the Gelato Festival in Santa Barbara and at Jersey City in New Jersey and won awards for her Strawberry Cheesecake. She was awarded the technical award in which the judges use the criteria of flavor, texture and originality of the presentation. This gave her validation for her new business endeavor. Her gelato was ranked top 50 in the world and one of the top three in the U.S.A. Currently the top selling flavors are, coffee, vanilla sea salt, mint Stracciatella and cookie monster (appealing to kids and adults alike).
The Lucky Dog Gelato name was inspired by their two dogs which evokes fun, honesty and authenticity! There is even a dog gelato offered, consisting of Greek yogurt, maple syrup, peanut butter and banana. The Bradys love the location of their new business - they feel like part of the community. Due to both Bradys having a background in marketing the small store also offers T-shirts, beach towels, hydro flask bottles, dog bowls and leashes, hats and free stickers.b
Lucky Dog Gelato, 1008 South El Camino Real. Hours Tues/Weds 3-9pm, Thurs-Sun 12noon-9pm.