From Argentina to Evanston: a local business owner talks about his roots

“I grew up sailing in Argentina, my family always had a sailboat, a small one. I’d always gone sailing with my father,” said Sebastián Koziura at the beginning of our interview. He had been close with his family ever since he was a little kid. He described where he grew up, a town called Puerto Madryn, as very welcoming. The houses were clean-cut and organized, with the appeal of the water so close by.

As a teenager, he started working at a local gelato shop that supplied their gelato to other businesses and restaurants in the area. The experience would later influence his decision to co-found the well-known and successful Frio Gelato, an Argentinian gelato shop in Evanston with his cousin, Enrique Schcolnik.

At the age of 17, Koziura began his first business, a motorcycle messenger service. “I always liked to create a product and a brand. For me, it’s a lot of fun. [But] it’s challenging and definitely not easy. There’s stress and a lot of headaches.”

Sebastián explained to me a little bit about his family history and the history of Argentina. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were a lot of immigrants coming to Argentina from Europe. Sebastián’s family more specifically came from Ukraine and Poland. Along with his family, many other Italian families emigrated, and with them came their Italian gelato. The gelato was adapted to Argentina’s land and natural resources, and as a result, Argentinian gelato was born.

In 1999, a young Mr. Koziura immigrated to the Southside of Chicago to work for his uncle. He eventually moved to Evanston to be closer to his wife, Karla. “In Argentina, I grew up in a pretty similar city to Evanston… They are both close to a lake. We enjoy going to the lake but also going sailing, and have a group of friends who we sail with. I can offer my kids a similar water experience”. 

At first, Sebastián started a real estate business that he is still running today, but opening a gelato shop hadalways been in the back of his mind ever since he was a child. 

When I asked him about his favorite memory of Frio Gelato, he told me about how building it from the ground up was the most satisfying. “From coming up with the idea, and from the idea to the product, and from the product to the licenses and so on… It’s hard, a lot of work, but looking back, it’s fun.”

He explained how much detail went into perfecting the shop. The goal was to create a look that would best represent Argentinian culture. He and his cousin wanted the shop to have a very clean and welcoming atmosphere. He visited many Italian gelato workshops to perfect his recipes and went through a lot of trial and error. His wife especially contributed a lot to the design– she worked on the color scheme of the shop, the layout, and even the style of the aprons.

“It’s very rewarding to make a product and see other people enjoying it,” he says. For him, one of the most fulfilling parts of his job is seeing the residents of Evanston enjoy the gelato, specifically the younger generations ofhis family.

“Like any immigrant, we move to the States but we still feel like in my case, that I am from Argentina. I love the States and this is my home now. I feel good living here, but my culture is Argentinian. I’m showing the rest of the world that I am proud of where I am from…. Argentina has a lot of neat things in their culture like tango and gelato, and through the business, there is a lot we can show to the world about our country.”

Sebastián told me about how everyone is more similar than we realize, how we all have basic needs like a safe place, food, water, and other necessities. He believes we become more welcoming and accepting when we are exposed to other cultures. That is why he thinks it is so important to bring his culture and the culture of others into Evanston.

For the past two years, Frio has taken a sudden hit due to the pandemic. They had to close down the shop to ensure the safety of their customers and staff. When they started to reopen their doors they faced frustration from a few of their customers about the new regulations in place. Now as Covid cases are down, their regulations are back to normal for everything except their free sample policy.

The shop is continuing to improve and modify its recipes with new allergy-friendly products and exciting bold flavors. They are enhancing the Argentinian gelato experience by using fresh ingredients prepared in-store, and are following their reputation of having the highest quality gelato in the area. Frio is a family-run business to this day, where you can see cousins and other family members of Sebastián working at the shop.

Even from my short time talking to Mr. Koziura, I can tell he is a true entrepreneur. He is passionate about everything he makes and takes time to perfect it. His favorite flavor in the shop is Dulce de Leche, a milk caramel dessert that reminds him of when he was a boy.