86-year-old man celebrates 70 years of serving ice cream – and says best flavour is vanilla

Frank is the best ice cream seller around (Picture: Lee McLean / SWNS)

An elderly man has been serving ice cream for 70 years, and in that time hes sold over three million cones.

Frank Penna started working in the family business when he went out in the ice cream vans at just 14 years old – 73 years ago.

In that time the 86-year-old father-of-five has sold in excess of 3,000,000 cones – all of them vanilla.

The married grandfather-of-nine is still going strong, manning the kiosk at Hulls Pearson Park; this year celebrating a tenure of 50 years.

To celebrate the milestone anniversary, Frank and his family hosted an event at the park on Saturday, which was attended by customers from three generations.

Frank, who is of Italian descent after his grandfather Francesco arrived in Hull via New York in 1889, said: We moved into Pearson Park in 1969 and have been here ever since.

Its a beautiful park and a perfect place to enjoy one of our ice creams.

Frank posing with ice cream
Hes sold over 3 million cones (Picture: Lee McLean / SWNS)

The secret is giving good value for money and being nice to people and treat customers all the same. There is nobody better than anyone else.



We took the place on, liked it and the rest is history. I never dreamed we would be here after 50 years.

We have all good memories right from day one.

The family history is in an interesting one, his grandfather Francesco, a mariner, ended up in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1800s, where he learned the ice cream trade.

He returned to Italy where he met his wife, Franks grandmother, Giuseppa, and together they embarked on a life-changing visit to Hull, with them staying in the UK for good.

Francesco started making his own ice cream to sell on the streets of the gritty northern port city.

Frank said: Back then there wasnt much going for business in Italy. You either worked in oranges or lemons. In Hull, the opportunities were many.

Frank in his van at 17
Frank in his van at 17 (Picture: SWNS)

Back in 1889 there was only one flavour going: vanilla.

Frank said: Because we made our own ice cream it was always vanilla.

Over time they did introduce ice lollies and such but we never added any other flavour ice cream.

Vanilla is the best selling flavour, I do sometimes get asked for others but nobody ever seems disappointed when we say we only have the one flavour.

It might not be your favourite, but it is not disliked.

The first Francesco developed his business and opened up premises in the Little Italy area of Hull, in North Street.

He made ice cream which would be sold to vendors and hired out in Pennas ice cream barrows on a daily basis.



The familys fortune rose, with the Pennas owning 15 barrows – ice cream stalls, three tricycles and three horse-drawn ice cream carts, stables and horses.

During the Second World War, when Mussolini declared Italy allies to Hitler, Winston Churchill responded by announcing the head of every Italian family living in Britain be interned – most were sent to Canada.

Worried that Francesco was too frail, Francesco Junior, who was just six months old when he arrived in Britain with his dad, volunteered to take his fathers place.

Four months later, Francesco Junior was returned to his family as a naturalised citizen and, having fought in the East Yorkshire, Corps in the British Army in the First World War, was deemed as no threat.

Frank eating ice cream
Frank says vanilla is the best flavour! (Picture: Lee McLean / SWNS)

However, it was not business as usual as ingredients needed to make ice cream were no longer available during WWII.

Instead, enterprising Francesco Junior bought a sawmill and sold kindling for fires on the barrows.

By this time Frank was starting to work in the family business but it was only after the war, and with the introduction of ice cream vans, that he went out selling to the people of Hull.

Frank said: Back then you could buy penny, tuppence and threepence cornets, then you had 9p and shilling cones in the 60s.

Ice cream was something that you could buy with your pocket money.

The big difference to ice cream over the years that Ive noticed is the cost.


Nowadays it is not unusual to cost a family of four £10 for ice creams.

We still have a 70p cone and sell a 99 for £1, we get some families coming to us especially, because we sell the cheapest ice cream in Hull.

We do it for the kids. We know thatRead More – Source