The Sidoli's Story

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The Beginning…

1922 – 1936

The Company was founded by Benedetto ‘Ben’ Sidoli in 1922. He had made a three-week journey from Bardi in Italy to Cwm near Ebbw Vale. Ben, aged only 12 at the time, left Italy to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Bert, who had already found work in the thriving industry in the South Wales Valleys. Bert and Ben began selling the lemon soft drink sarsaparilla, as well as coffee and tea, to miners at the local colliery. They soon opened a small café in Cwm, selling traditional Italian vanilla ice cream.

Ben fell in love and married a local Valleys girl, Doris. Together they moved from Cwm to Ebbw Vale and purchased a shop in the heart of Ebbw Vales high street. Depending on the weather Benedetto would produce two gallons daily at the rear of his cafe in the heart of Ebbw Vale town. It was sold at the old halfpenny for a single cone and a wafer which was a penny and two pence. Ice cream production would start Easter Monday and finish at the end of August.

Ben and Doris went on to have five children, Ray, Terry, Gina, Iolanda and Ken who sadly passed away at the age of 12 from meningitis .

The highlight of the year would be Whitson Monday when all the local chapels would walk out displaying their various banners. The ice cream sellers of which Benedetto had 6/7 at the time, would each be positioned outside one of the chapels, preferably the one with the largest congregation. After the children had finished the walk they would return to the chapel for a tea party, which concluded with lots of them having money to spend on ice cream.

In order to make ice cream Ben had to buy large blocks of ice. One block of ice use to weigh one hundredweight (CWT) or 50.80 kilograms. He would have to buy one every time he wanted to produced his ice cream and they were delivered from Cardiff daily by train and would arrive in Ebbw Vale at 6am.

Ben would move the ice block to his cafe where they would be broken up and packed with salt to lower the freezing temperature. Ben’s base ice cream mix which is a very similar recipe to the one we use today would be poured into a pot and beaten while, simultaneously, the pot was shaken up and down in a pan with the broken ice and salt to produce our ice cream. Everything manufactured had to be sold that day otherwise it would go to waste.