“I started the business with only a few hundred pounds and had no experience of retail. Over the years I invested my profits back into the business and now specialise in handmade chocolates, gift confectionery, premium spirits and my own brand of ice cream, Geraldo’s, which is manufactured on site.”
Toni Dawson, Sugar & Spice Largs
With July being known as #IceCreamMonth we have been catching up with local #Ayrshire ice cream businesses, not only to discover more about the adventurous flavours and toppings coming onto the market, but to find out more about the manufacturing side of the business and how this industry can create excellent career prospects for young people. We visited Sugar & Spice Largs where we caught up with owner Toni Dawson and her newest recruit, 19 year-old Louis Warwick.
Established in March 2000 Sugar & Spice Largs is run by mother and daughter Caroline and Toni Dawson. Ice cream has always been a massive part of the Dawson family with Caroline starting her own ice cream business during the early 60’s in Ayr called Caroline’s Ices at the young age of just 17. Following on from this and moving further up the coast the Dawson’s opened a family run business in Saltcoats within the licensed trade and amusement leisure industry. A major part of this business was managing the ice cream kiosks and catering areas which Toni took in her stride. Running successfully for a number of years, Toni was able to build up the experience and knowledge needed to stand her in good sted in the business world.
But when the recession hit, it took its toll on the family business and after 30 years of Toni’s parents being in the industry they sadly lost everything, including their home. During this time Toni was offered a seasonal ice cream concession in Largs which she operated for 2 summer seasons. The opportunity then arose to rent premises close by in the Largs area and after successfully applying, Toni was delighted to open her own ice cream and souvenirs shop called Sugar & Spice Largs.
With things looking up Toni informed us that she started the business with only a few hundred pounds and had no experience of the retail industry. She hand-painted some old kitchen units to display holiday rock and tourist confectionery products whilst the Orkney Creamery loaned her an ice cream cabinet and supplied the ice cream. Over the years Toni invested her profits back into the business and her story is a true reflection of how hard work and sheer determination can bring success.
With 7 members of staff now within the business Toni has recently taken on 19 year old Louis who she describes as being, “a great asset to the business.” When asked what she finds so beneficial about recruiting young people Toni explained:
“From the outset Louis had a great attitude which was hugely important and is very well-mannered. He has also been a great assistant with many tasks that would normally be carried out by a more senior person and this, in turn, keeps the business running more efficiently without the core members of staff feeling under pressure. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a young person as an extra pair of hands provided they have a great attitude from the start.”
When asked what part of her job she enjoys most Toni explained:
“Serving ice cream! There is nowhere I would rather be on a hot sunny day than scooping ice cream and serving the best possible product I can to my customers.”
With Sugar & Spice selling their own brand of ice cream known as Geraldo’s – named after Toni’s father Gerald – they are well known for producing a vast amount of different flavours of ice cream and sorbets. Their signature flavour and current best seller is Gerry Berry – an ice cream made with Amarena Cherries and Balsamic Vinegar.
Toni’s mum known as ‘Sweet Caroline’ is responsible for producing the majority of ice cream which is manufactured on site at their premises in Largs with Toni developing the flavours and new recipes. Recently they were visited by Italian Masterchef Antonio Losita to work on new flavours for the summer season and have already been extremely busy and popular with selling ice cream. In June they were faced with the busiest day they had ever experienced making 180 litres of ice cream by hand in one day in order to keep up with the high demand for Geraldo’s delicious ice cream.
On that very day newest recruit Louis Warwick started his first shift at Sugar and Spice Largs and explained that being thrown in at the deep end has been great for his experience. When asked what he likes most about his current job role within the business Louis stated:
“I like how every day is different. One day you could be restocking the shelves and the next day could be a full day of serving ice cream you just never know what the day will bring.”
How did Louis find the recruitment process of getting the job with Sugar & Spice Largs?
“There was signs up advertised at the door so I handed in my CV. I then went through the interview process with Toni which was good and was then offered the job.”
So what advice would Louis give to young people who may be considering a career in this industry?
“I would say get yourself out there and get yourself known amongst employers.Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter to make yourself known to the employer and within the community. This will help you get noticed as best you can.”
You can watch our full interview with Louis below:
It is clear to see that Louis is gaining great experience and knowledge during his time working in Sugar & Spice Largs. He describes the experience as being invaluable for allowing him to gain skills and qualities which can be transferred into his future career plans to be an Accountant once completing his degree at the University of Glasgow; we wish him all the best!
We would like to thank Toni and all the team at Sugar and Spice Largs for giving us an insight into the business and particpating in this blog post. Here are some fun facts that we thought you might like to know about ice cream before you go…
1 – It takes on average 50 licks to eat a regular ice cream cone
2 – According to NASA, ice cream is one of the top 3 items to be missed by astronauts on space flights
3 – Around 25% of ice cream sales are vanilla
4 – Stabilisers used in ice cream are made from seaweed
5 – The winner of the 2014 World Ice Cream Eating Championships ate 15 pints of ice cream in 6 minutes!
Would you like the opportunity to showcase your business or the young people you employ through our blog and social media platforms? Get in touch today:
T: 01292 678666
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