Jimmy Robinson, owner of Robinson’s Ice Cream in Craigavon, has won Ice Cream Van of the Year 2021, a competition held every year by the trade association for the ice cream sector for the UK and Ireland, the Ice Cream Alliance.
Jimmy has three vans and three trailers operating in and around Craigavon, Portadown and Lurgan and in parks in Lisburn and Belfast.
He is the first winner from the island of Ireland in the 43 years of the competition.
“This is an absolutely fantastic honour and I’m delighted,” says Jimmy. “I have spent 36 years running and growing this business and all the hard work has paid off.
“And it’s a family effort with both my sons, my wife Carmel and my brother-in-law all working with me.”
Jimmy is the third generation of his family to sell ice cream. It started in the 1950s when his grandmother Cora arrived in Northern Ireland from Lucca in Tuscany to make and sell her ice cream.
In the 1960s his father, also called Jimmy, took the business over followed by his brother Michael. Today he employs 11 people, both full and part-time.
Jimmy was a full-time Irish International table tennis player and coach when in 1985 his father persuaded him to change direction.
“Dad helped me buy a CF Bedford van for £800 and we turned it into a makeshift ice cream van with a pop on roof and old fridge.
“I still remember my first day out and how much I loved it, being my own boss. I even remember my takings of £76, and thinking this was great.
“Promoting Robinson’s Ice Cream is very important to me. It’s been more important than ever with Covid-19. We were one of the first operators in Northern Ireland to Covid-proof our entire operation to ensure the safety of staff and customers with the erection of screens, providing PPE to staff, and ensuring social distancing at our park sites with the inclusion of hand sanitising stations. Winning Ice Cream Van of the Year makes all that hard work worthwhile.”
Ice Cream Van of the Year, known as the Mobiler of the Year, is awarded annually.
Entrants are judged on a raft of business attributes and are whittled down to three finalists who are interviewed by a panel of ice cream industry experts – this year undertaken via Zoom.
In a tight three-way contest Jimmy won because of his passion for the business and the service he provides, his work in the community and his high standards across everything from health and hygiene to presentation.