Economic conditions force holiday closure of Stella Luna locations, layoff of staff

The Stella Luna location at 1130 Wellington St. W, is the franchises second location. Photo by Zenith Wolfe.

By Charlie Senack

Difficult economic conditions have forced the holiday closure of three Stella Luna Gelato Cafe locations, with staff told they were being laid off earlier this month.

Employees were told they would be losing their jobs by email on Dec. 12. Staff who have been at the company for less than a year were given one week’s notice; longer-serving employees were given two weeks. 

Stella Luna’s owners did not respond to KT’s requests for comment. In a statement posted to Facebook, they said economic conditions have affected their ability to run the business.

“In an effort to survive the economic downturn this winter, and after four years of nationwide financial uncertainty, we have had to lay off almost all of our staff,” the statement read. “Our family members will continue to operate the business throughout the winter in the hopes that spring will present new opportunities and a stronger economy, allowing us to welcome our team back.”

Stella Luna’s location in Carleton Place closed permanently a few weeks ago, with no reason given for the closure. 

The gelato shop currently has three locations: on Bank Street in the Glebe, Wellington Street West in Hintonburg, and in Merrickville. Staff at those locations were affected by the layoffs. Those locations will close from Christmas to New Year’s, with the owners saying they have plans to reopen after the holidays.

Around 50 people worked for the company as of earlier this year.

In the Facebook statement, Stella Luna owners said they are grateful for the community’s support and compassion. 

Kasey Tierney, who has been an employee at the Wellington Street West location for more than six years, said while she’s upset to be losing her job, her thoughts are with the owners who she said are devastated over the tough decision. 

“The staff is heartbroken to let the community go and we are all blindsided but wish them the best,” said Tierney, who has been manager for the past two years. “This isn’t easy for anyone. The family is heartbroken and hope they can bring people back to the business as soon as possible.”  

Zachary Giuliani (left) and his fiancé Christopher Berneck (right) took over Stella Luna this Spring. Photo by Zenith Wolfe.

Stella Luna was founded in 2011 by Tammy Giuliani, with the original location on Bank Street near Sunnyside Avenue. The business was taken over earlier this year by Tammy’s son Zachary Giuliani and his now-husband Christopher Berneck. Tammy was no longer involved in operating the company but offered gelato catering at weddings. 

In March, Zachary Giuliani told KT that he and Berneck were looking to brand the gelato shop as “an inclusive, welcoming space.”

In early 2022, Stella Luna became embroiled in controversy after Tammy Giuliani gave an anonymous donation of $250 to the “Freedom Convoy.” A data leak later revealed her donation through GiveSendGo. 

Tammy, who said she regretted the donation, had to temporarily close her stores after she and her staff were threatened with violence. 

Zachary told KT in the spring that he understood not everyone would be forgiving and return as customers but he hoped the community would notice his dedication to rebuilding the space.

Weeks later the Italian dessert cafe found itself in controversy again when it enforced an exclusivity clause that resulted in the relocation of neighbouring Wellington West business Sharpfle Waffle.  

“Stella Luna was never consulted or provided notice by our landlord that another ‘restaurant or cafe-like business’ had been allowed to rent a unit in the plaza,” Zachary wrote in a statement at the time. “It was, and remains, our position that allowing Sharpfle Waffle to operate out of the same premises was a breach of our lease agreement by the landlord.”

Sharpfle Waffle left the Wellington location and in August opened a location in Hintonburg.

Correction: A previous issue of this article said the Wellington Street West location was closing. No closures have been announced.

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