Is this Canberra’s happiest man?

Erwin Tanaja, wife Cin and children Olivia and Nicholas... “We decided early on that this was the place we wanted to settle down and raise a family.” Photo by Gary Schafer

Erwin Tanaja, wife Cin and children Olivia and Nicholas… “We decided early on that this was the place we wanted to settle down and raise a family.” Photo by Gary Schafer

HAPPINESS is important to Erwin Tanaja, a man who loves his job, his life and his gelato.

“It’s the best job in the world, because everyone we meet is happy,” he says. “Who wouldn’t be happy when they’re getting gelato?”

Along with his wife Cin, Erwin runs three Gelatissimo franchises in Canberra as well as one in Wagga Wagga.

He says the idea came about in his younger days, pre-kids, when he and a few friends would drive from Wagga to Melbourne to get gelato.

“I saw there was a gap in the market and decided that Wagga needed gelato, so Cin and I opened the first regional franchise there.”

Despite not being very Italian (Erwin likes to joke that he’s from south of Sicily… about 10,000km south, in Indonesia) the couple say they can relate to the Italian lifestyle.

“It’s about family and being together,” he says. “We don’t drink, so we love providing a place for people to hang out. You can bring the kids, it’s family-friendly, of course, but it’s also a great place to come for a first date… it’s safer than clubs or bars where you can drink too much!”

Originally from East Java, the couple met at uni in Perth while studying food technology. Erwin moved to Wagga to do his PhD in wheat at Charles Sturt University, and Cin joined him shortly after. The couple decided to get married in 2006.

“It was just after the wedding that we heard about the availability of the Canberra Centre store,” says Erwin. “I said to Cin, how do you fancy a honeymoon starting up a new business? I’m lucky to have her, because she agreed! We still haven’t had a proper honeymoon.”

They now have two children, aged four and two, and say the secret to working together successfully for so long is having the same goals.

“We are opposites in personality, but we are moving in the same direction, our goals are the same,” he says. “She keeps her composure when I can get manic!

“We love living in north Canberra, and we decided early on that this was the place we wanted to settle down and raise a family.

“I believe in the business, of selling happiness, and it helps me to follow through and bring my dream to others.

“For us it’s about making people smile. The gelato is amazing, of course, but we’re more interested in how the whole experience makes people feel. We want to make a connection with the customer, to bring some joy. These days, that level of interaction is lost.

“We’re selling a moment, an experience – it’s not just gelato.”

 

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