The Sweet Life
by Jennifer Mogensen
Meet David Simpson - once a nomad, next a waiter, now proprietor of Dolci
David Simpson, owner of Dolci Bakery and Gelateria, has packed more into his 35 years than most of us will even try to accomplish in a lifetime. His boyish charm, coy smile, and black apron covered in cake flour belie his intense drive and passion. He has held more than two dozen jobs, lived in nearly a dozen states, is the father of three young children, and owns a successful business. He certainly knows how to keep busy.
Born in Bakersfield, California, Simpson spent his childhood moving around the Midwest, never staying in one place for too long. His nomadic lifestyle was due largely to his parents’ less-than-legal profession. “To make it through [that lifestyle], you have to learn to be a chameleon,” he says.
Simpson’s life seems to have cosmically come together, the pieces of the puzzle simply falling into place. It started when he lived in San Francisco and met a woman who was from Buffalo. As the familiar story goes, he followed his heart from West to East and landed here in 1999. While working as a server at some of the city’s finest eateries, Simpson noticed a niche that he felt he could fill. He took note that the restaurant he was serving at ordered gelato from an outside source. He thought it could be better, and it could be local, but at the time there was no one in Buffalo making the deliciously creamy Italian variant of ice cream.
Simpson began experimenting. With no formal training as a pastry chef (his college degree is actually in applied sciences, but that’s another story completely), he began mixing ingredients in his kitchen. As it turned out, he had a hidden talent for the art of gelato-making. He is serious when he says, “I consider ice cream to be one of the major food groups.”
Here is where fate plays a fantastic role in the story. Several years earlier, in 2001, Simpson had attended a spiritual retreat in San Diego, where he met a man by the name of Richard Buccleu. The two men became best friends. Simpson returned to Buffalo but kept in close contact with Buccleu over the ensuing years.
One day in 2006—the exact date of the revelation was actually May 5—while making gelato at home, Simpson had an idea. “It just came to me, I wanted to open a gelateria,” he says. He shared his idea with Buccleu and a plan began to take form. Buccleu, who derives the majority of his income from successful real estate ventures in Sante Fe, agreed to invest in what would be Buffalo’s first gelateria, as soons as Simpson found a location.
After months of research on Simpson’s part, Buccleu introduced him to another man who shared their spiritual beliefs and lived in Buffalo. Simpson sought out this man and came to learn that his wife, ironically—or cosmically—was a baker at Dolci.
Situated on the corner of Elmwood and Breckenridge, the venerable bakery was for sale. The location was perfect but the business wasn’t an immediate fit. “We had no intention of owning a bakery, none,” Simpson says, laughing. Nonetheless, with Buccleu’s financial backing, Simpson purchased Dolci. He now faced the task of re-inventing the bakery and incorporating his gelato business.
Apparently he as figured it out. Dolci has been growing under Simpson’s watch. While he maintained the bakery operation, he added his gelato and took on commercial accounts. It wasn’t long before he began to outgrow the space hidden behind the swinging doors at Dolci. Unable to expand at the current location, he found additional space on Rhode Island Street and moved the gelato production to that location. Shortly thereafter, he found yet another storefront and Grant Street and opened a second bakery under the Dolci name.
He takes all this motion in stride. After all, he is used to moving around.
At Dolci, Simpson is the entrepreneur, manager, and bookkeeper. “I am Dolci,” he says with a tired smile. His days can run as long as 15 hours and he rarely takes a day off. Simpson admits to feeling overwhelmed at times but feels fortunate to have gained the success he now enjoys.
He is not even close to finished. He continues to expand the business and has big plans for the future. While the mainstays of Dolci are cakes, tarts, and cookies, Simpson has added breads and soups to his repertoire and is considering incorporating a café-style atmosphere and menu.
If Simpson weren’t operating one of the most successful bakeries in Buffalo, he would be gazing at the sky. His dream job is to be a particle physicist or an astronomer. But meantime he keepsg his feet planted on the ground and his hands churning gelato.
Dolci, at 732 Elmwood Avenue and 205 Grant Street, is open every day of the year, though Simpson jokes that he may close on Groundhog Day this year. Dolci offers custom cakes, including wedding cakes, and cookie trays for the holidays. For more information, visit www.dolcibakery.com.blog comments powered by Disqus
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