Previous Stella Luna employees owed severance and tips, says former staff 

Tammy and five others hold up a sign that reads “our happy place” inside the gelato shop
Former Stella Luna employees say they are owed severance and tips after the Wellington West gelato shop closed in December. File photo by Ellen Bond.

By Charlie Senack 

Nearly three months after its closure, laid-off employees of Stella Luna in Wellington West say they have not received their severance or tip money.

The once popular gelato shop fell into controversy in 2022 when owner Tammy Giuliani donated $250 to the so-called “freedom convoy” truckers’ protest. The donation was made public after crowdfunding “Give-send-Go” contributions were leaked.

Stella Luna once boasted four locations. The Wellington West and Carleton Place locations have closed. The Old Ottawa South and Merrickville locations are still open.

Kasey Tierney, who worked at Stella Luna for more than six years, says the owner, Tammy Giuliani, agreed to pay her in January. The money never came.

“I had no issues doing it in installments because it was a substantial amount of money. Tammy said she would start payments the following Monday. I never got any money,” Tierney told KT. “I reached out a week later and I got excuses.”

KT has requested a comment from Giuliani and other family members who worked at the business. However, they did not respond by deadline.

In an email sent to Tierney on Feb. 1, Giuliani wrote that she appreciated her former employees’ support, and said there is no money to pay employees.

“It’s gut wrenching for us to not have enough to pay people what they are owed. As you know, Zachary, Chris, Erica, Sandro and I are all working without pay while we try to cover basic expenses,” wrote Giuliani. “We are trying to keep the hydro on and the water flowing so we can stay alive until spring when business picks up. If we close permanently, then no one benefits. We can’t pay salaries owed, tips or severance if this happens. The bank accounts are empty, our savings (are) long gone and all credit options exhausted.”

Tammy and a man sit at a booth inside Stella Luna.
Tammy Giuliani (left) eats gelato inside her Wellington Street West location in 2017. File photo by Ellen Bond.

On March 8, Stella Luna posted to its Instagram that an in-person job fair was being held at its Bank Street location. When the layoffs were announced in December, a Facebook statement said they would welcome the team back when possible. 

Reggie Clark, who has worked at Stella Luna for about four months, says he is owed a few hundred dollars in tips.

“Being laid off two weeks before Christmas was quite a bummer for me and my coworkers, especially trying to buy gifts for friends and family. A lot of us felt like we couldn’t do that and it impacted our ability to enjoy the holidays,” says Clark. “Three months later I’m still without a job. I’ve been doing interviews, applying in-person and online, but haven’t found anything that gives me the hours I need.” 

In March 2023, it was announced that Giuliani handed the company down to her son Zach and his partner Christopher Berneck. In an interview with KT at the time, the pair said they were excited to rebuild the company as an inclusive and welcoming space. A month later, it was announced neighbouring business Sharpfle Waffle would have to move due to an exclusivity clause Stella Luna had in place with landlord Taggart Realty. 

Despite the apparent change inleadership, all pay requests went through Tammy, staff said. When the new ownership was announced, the Stella Luna founder was supposed to only be involved in the catering side of business.

Leading up to the Wellington Street location’s closure, Tierney said customers tipped generously as an act of support for the employees who were losing their jobs at Christmas.  

“People were very, very kind,” she said. “It’s a huge testimony to the Hintonburg community about how respectful they were to us. I’m grateful for it.”

Stella Luna is known for their internationally award-winning gelato. File photo by Zenith Wolfe.

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