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John Bonar, ice-cream man
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re an ice cream man

Kyra Hanson

…according to John Bonar, 53.

The traditional ice-cream trade is under threat

‘The decline of the ice-cream van really started when councils started clamping down on illegal street trading. Then Jamie Oliver and the plan to tackle obesity impacted where we could trade. Now there’s talk of banning ice-cream vans outside schools because of the engine fumes. Soon the ice-cream man will go the way of pubs and milk floats, and you’ll miss us when we’re gone.’

The real money is in corporate clients, not kids

‘When I was a kid, the only place you could get an ice cream was from the ice-cream man. Now everyone has a freezer and we can’t compete with supermarket prices. The survivors are the ones who change their business model. At Piccadilly Whip we still have vans and kiosks at the Tower of London, St Katherine Docks and Victoria Park, but we’ve also launched Ice Cream Express, where your boss can invite us around to give everyone in the office an ice cream.’

A van don’t come for free

‘We always use Whitby Morrison, the leading manufacturer of ice-cream vans. My uncle paid £30 for his first van in 1963. Now vans can cost up to £90,000.’

Ice cream has a violent history

‘When I first started selling ice cream back in the ’70s, we didn’t need anything: no health and hygiene certificates, no trading licences. Because everything was illegal, you’d have ice-cream vans jostling for the best positions. You might end up with a black eye or a bloody nose, but that’s just how things were sorted out – the old-fashioned way. Now most vans are licensed so we don’t come into conflict, but in the past I’ve had to stand my ground as much as anyone else.’

Fancy a cold one? Here’s our pick of the best ice cream in London.

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