What a fantastic start to the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow…

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Celebrations in Largs as the Queen’s Baton returns home to Millport

It’s not every day you get a request like this but a few weeks ago, the head of catering for North Ayrshire Council popped in to Sugar & Spice to talk about a special celebration dinner for the Queen’s Baton Relay carriers prior to the XX Commonwealth Games starting in Glasgow. Geraldo’s ice cream was to feature on the menu and I was asked to create two new flavours for the occasion.

The dinner was being held over two days for 500 people on both nights and to welcome the teams from Nigeria and St Helena as their special guests. The request was for 24 napolis each of Mango and Lime ice cream along with 1000 chocolate dipped waffle cones and 32 kilos of handmade chocolates. The ice cream was being carried into the dinner on specially designed platters to hold the cones high, resembling the baton, with the chocolates from Sugar & Spice being served afterwards.

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The first batch of Geraldo’s Mango ice cream being produced for the Queen’s Baton Celebration Dinner

I was over the moon to be asked to do it and delighted that Geraldo’s Ice Cream was specifically mentioned on the dinner menu. The excitement in town on the day was fantastic and the feedback has been amazing. Largs was especially busy as the Queen’s Baton made its way into town and across to the island of Cumbrae and the town of Millport where the wood for the Baton came from. On its return into Largs, crowds lined the streets and cheered the Baton carriers as they passed Sugar & Spice and made their way further down the coast prior to the celebration dinner later that day.  Even Magnus, Largs’s Viking warrior on the promenade, was involved when Karen Dunbar posed for photos with the town’s Vikings.

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Magnus looks on bemused as Karen Dunbar stops briefly for a photo opportunity with the Vikings of Largs.

After all the hustle and bustle was over I was especially pleased to be able to spend a few hours in the city centre of Glasgow on the day of the opening ceremony. My cousin Maxine was visiting from Singapore and we headed for Buchanan Street for lunch. The atmosphere in town was incredible with live entertainment all around the streets of the city. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced Glasgow as being this much fun and it was clear the city was literally welcoming all nations with open arms.  At 7pm the streets cleared as everyone headed to the opening ceremony or to the nearest TV screen to watch the celebrations unfold.

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Buchanan Street buskers made the atmosphere in Glasgow city centre electric on the opening day of the XX Commonwealth Games.

Well done Glasgow and to all the volunteers and contributors involved. You certainly flourished that day!

The 2014 International Flying Dutchman World Championships are coming to Largs…

20140710-095829-35909775.jpg It’s bright and breezy out on the Firth of Clyde and Largs is sailing into the weekend with perfect conditions for hosting this world class event at Largs Yacht Haven organised by the SSI and Largs Sailing Club. Competitiors have arrived for the event with registration and the opening ceremony taking place this weekend. The fun starts on Monday, 14th when the first two races start and will continue right through to Saturday, 19th of July with the prize giving and closing ceremony. The sight of these spectacular 20-foot racing boats is one not to be missed so get yourself to Largs this week and don’t miss out. fd Worlds Meanwhile, at Sugar & Spice, we’ve developed a new flavour of Geraldo’s Ice Cream to welcome the competitors to the town centre. It’s our traditional Classic Vanilla recipe rippled with red and blue raspberry sauce and a sprinkling of blue sherbet pips and called, you guessed it: “The Flying Dutchman!” We’re flying the flag for Great Britain and hope that our British competitors enjoy some fantastic racing. 20140711-143334-52414467.jpg Incidentally, I just found out the Flying Dutchman is a legendary ghost ship that’s doomed to sail the oceans forever. Let’s just hope that all who sail in the event make it safely back to shore to enjoy the closing party celebrations.

Talking of celebrations, if you’re a whisky or whisky liqueur fan, Old Pulteney are one of the event sponsors. We’re offering 10% discount off Old Pulteney Stroma Liqueur during the Flying Dutchman event.

Have fun!

Toni

The story of Geraldo’s ice cream…

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My Dad, Gerald Dawson, aka Geraldo!

I guess most girls think of their Dad as handsome but I remember this picture in particular because I took it. He had a great sense of style, a fabulous smile and was always upbeat, outgoing and full of energy. That was before the recession of the 90’s kicked in and he lost everything, home included, after 35 years in business. My parents moved in with me and shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. That was the beginning of a long hard struggle against ill health and trying to make a start again in business. Dad was absolutely determined to keep going no matter what.

I took the opportunity to start up myself in Largs operating a seasonal ice cream outlet near the CalMac ferry terminal. With a great deal of family support, Mum and Dad moved to Largs and whilst I accompanied Dad to hospital for ongoing treatment, Mum assisted me in the business. Two summer seasons later another shop came on the market directly opposite me. Dad was obviously feeling better around then and encouraged me to “go for it!”  After successfully securing the lease on the property, Sugar & Spice started up in March 2000.  With little more than a few £100 in cash to get going, I fitted out the shop with very basic kitchen units, hand painted them in bright candy pink stripes and tried to get really creative filling such a large space with well-packaged confectionery and holiday rock.

My Mum had always been in the ice cream business and started up ‘Caroline’s Ices’ in Ayr back in the early 60’s and I knew from the family’s previous business interests that I had to sell ice cream to make the business work long term.  Largs has a strong history of Italian ice cream families and the Nardini name is known all over the world.  Equipment is hugely expensive and there was no way I could afford to buy.  What chance did I have with so much going against me?  I decided to contact several suppliers to see who could loan me a display cabinet and supply me with good quality ice cream.  The Orkney Creamery was a family business like ours and their wonderfully creamy ice cream was just what I wanted.  It was a small cabinet to begin with, 8 flavours I recall, and situated inside the shop.  Knowing that ice cream is an impulse buy, I knew the cabinet had to be within eyesight of passing customers if it was going to work so after the first season I submitted a planning application to open up one of my front windows so that the ice cream could be served directly onto the street.  What a difference that made!  Three years on and the Orkney Creamery could no longer keep up with demand and they told me at the end of that summer they could no longer supply me.  It was a real blow at the time but sometimes you don’t realise that a seemingly bad situation is really an opportunity in disguise.

Ice Cream queues

Dad was hugely supportive but his health took a turn for the worse.  Mum and I continued to look after him at home with nurses, doctors and round the clock medication all part of the daily routine for several months.  I always remember him saying “Take control and go for it kiddo!”  So I did!

Mum and I enrolled in training courses with Carpigiani’s Gelato University, travelled to Hereford to study courses in recipe formulation and research ice cream making equipment and, within 6 months during the quieter winter season, I remortgaged my home, borrowed every penny I could on credit cards and set up my own production unit at the back of my shop.  It also happens to be the smallest production unit in Scotland but you’d be amazed at what comes out of it.

Dad was terminally ill at that point but was constantly asking how it was all going.  I contacted one of the best graphic designers I know, Derek Goodchild at Ocean Agency, and asked him to create a logo for my new ice cream brand.

My Dad was a very good footballer and won 5 caps for the Scottish Showmen’s International Football League.  He was spotted by a talent scout who wanted to sign him to play professionally for Preston North End.  Faced with choosing between this fantastic  opportunity and his commitment to the family business at that time my Dad decided to give up any notion of a professional career in football.  He continued to play for the SSIFL and everyone who played with him and against him likened him to one of the world’s best Brazilian football players at that time, Geraldo Jose da Silva.  Everyone knew my Dad as Geraldo and so…

Geraldo’s Luxury Ice Cream was born!

My newly branded cabinet was installed in the Spring of 2005 along with branded tubs, napkins and wafers and another ice cream season was upon us.  On Father’s Day 2005, I nipped home to check on Dad and tell him we’d just had a power cut and all my ice cream was melting in the middle of a busy, hot and sunny, Sunday afternoon.  Mum was in the shop giving it away. Why waste good ice cream and what a great marketing opportunity that turned out to be.  He settled back down, smiled and passed away later that night.

There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of him and the inspiration that he was to me and every day the sun’s shining brightly in Largs there’s nowhere I would rather be than scooping and serving my award-winning ice cream to the visitors and hearing them say Geraldo’s is the best ice cream in Largs.

Incidentally, my Mum affectionately called my Dad Gerry Berry.  That’s now my signature flavour – Classic Vanilla rippled with Amarena Cherries soaked in Kirsch and Balsamic Vinegar.  Dad would’ve loved it!!

Gerald Dawson
1937 – 2005