“Ice cream runs through our veins instead of blood” - Derbyshire family business on being successful after 70 years

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“I feel proud of what we’ve done, and what we’re still achieving now. Even when there’s all these other people in the business, we’re still at the top. A little ice cream firm in Clay Cross.”

This is Lorraine, one of three Manfredi sisters at the fifty year-old Smith’s Creamland Ices shop on Clay Cross High Street. All this begins seventy years ago with her father, Domenico Manfredi, who came over from Italy, married Louise, left his job at Coalite, and started making his own ice cream.

Jan, another of the Manfredi sisters adds “I’m proud of my dad and my mum. They’ve taught us a good work ethic. And they keep going, which makes us keep going.”

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Emily, daughter of Tina, the third Manfredi sister, agrees. “I find it quite inspiring seeing my grandad who’s 90, and my grandma, still going. How much they’ve achieved.”

Lorraine, Jan and Emily at Smith's Creamland Ices, Clay CrossLorraine, Jan and Emily at Smith's Creamland Ices, Clay Cross
Lorraine, Jan and Emily at Smith's Creamland Ices, Clay Cross

This business is most certainly a Manfredi family affair. Tina explains the name Smith’s Creamland Ices is because her father Domenico noted there were other Manfredi ice cream makers around, so “he picked a name”.

And could the girls pick a favourite flavour? Lorraine goes for “Dairy. Double butter and cream. It’s beautiful.” Jan goes for “Vanilla, and I love the black cherry”. Emily goes for “Mint choc chip. And I like the new ones that we do.”

“We’ve done cherry Bakewell which is really nice. Jaffa cake, Bailey’s. I like the new special edition ones that we bring out. I feel like we all have a say on them…” The girls laugh, and Lorraine explains. “When he makes them, he always brings them in and we have to test them.”

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So, you have family tasting sessions? “Oh yeah!” says Jan. “Every one of us has to test them and give our opinion. We’re all involved. Which is lovely… Sometimes you have disagreements. If we all said ‘Yes, that’s perfect’ you’re not really judging fairly.”

Smith's Creamland Ices on the Clay Cross High StreetSmith's Creamland Ices on the Clay Cross High Street
Smith's Creamland Ices on the Clay Cross High Street

Lorraine smiles. “Sometimes it’s nine o’clock in the morning when he brings them in to try.” The girls all laugh, Jan adding “I open the shop at eight o’clock, and sometimes he brings them and says ‘Just try this’ and I’m like ‘Dad, it’s eight o’clock!’.”

Grandfather Domenico isn’t around today due to illness, but as the girls talk, it’s clear his devotion has created a successful family business, his ice cream creations winning many awards. “He’s won best ice cream in the United Kingdom several times,” Lorraine says proudly.

So, growing up in a family that makes ice cream… kid heaven? Lorraine and Jan chuckle.

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“Even at a young age we were bought into the factory after school, weren’t we,” says Lorraine, looking to Jan. “Wipe down the machines, mop the floor.” Jan nods. “We used to do those screwballs. The ones with the bubble gum. We used to do those by hand, before the machinery.”

Jan and ice cream at Smith's Creamland IcesJan and ice cream at Smith's Creamland Ices
Jan and ice cream at Smith's Creamland Ices

Emily laughs. “I probably enjoy the benefits, because they did all the hard work. And then when it was my generation, we’d come in every day, pick some sweets, try ice cream that they’d made that day.”

Jan smiles. “We’ve always been allowed to eat the ice cream”.

But this shop is more than ice cream. Drinks, snacks and sweets. Many sweets. Old school jars to pick a quarter mix, perfect for that fond taste of nostalgia. And the Manfredi family also go out into the community with their ice cream vans.

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Community is important to this family. “We’ve all been brought up in Clay Cross. We know everybody,” says Lorraine. “I love Clay Cross people,” adds Jan.

The Manfredi family: Tina, Jan, Emily, LorraineThe Manfredi family: Tina, Jan, Emily, Lorraine
The Manfredi family: Tina, Jan, Emily, Lorraine

Emily agrees. “Yeah… same. Very friendly. You see people most days, and you get to know people.” Lorraine looks to her niece. “You know each other by name, don’t you.”

Emily nods. “Yeah. Especially in my generation, you don’t grow up speaking to people because you’re always on your phone. When you’re in a shop you get to speak to people.”

Emily pauses, looks to her aunties. “Whereas you’ve probably grown up without phones, haven’t you?” Jan and Lorraine laugh, age jibes batted to and fro, the closeness of the family obvious.

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And what advice would they give on creating a successful business like theirs? “It’s not easy now because you’ve got a lot of competition,” says Lorraine. “We’ve got all the big supermarkets that are surrounding us, so it isn’t easy. But, if you do a good job and you make a quality product, you can still make it work.”

“You’ve got to be prepared to work every hour when it’s needed,” says Jan. “Obviously summertime, no holidays in the summer,” she says, referring to ice cream demand. “Every business has it’s busy time. That’s when you’ve got to put it in. Be dedicated to what you’re doing. Because otherwise, you’ll never be any good.”

“Because of how we’ve been brought up as well, with ice cream, it runs through our veins instead of blood,” says Lorraine. “We’ve always said that,” nods Jan.

Lorraine with John in the ice cream factoryLorraine with John in the ice cream factory
Lorraine with John in the ice cream factory

The Manfredi aunties look to their niece. “Use social media to your advantage,” says Emily. “Especially in small communities. I think if you’re opening a small business, you need to use social media now. Otherwise you’re just not going to get the word out there.”

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“Emily does all that,” says Lorraine. And how does Emily feel growing up amongst this?

“Amazing. Because a lot of people, they don’t see their family very often. But I’ve been very lucky to see my grandparents every single day. And both my aunties every single day. And growing up it’s not just been my mum and dad, it’s been my whole family around me. Which has been really nice.”

“She’s making me want to cry,” says Jan, the lump in her throat obvious.

Smith’s Creamland Ices: seventy years in the making, with more flavours to come.