Vicky Edwards meets – Katy Alston

The Mrs Whippy team
The Mrs Whippy team

NINE years ago when Katy was given a wreck of an ice cream van for Christmas, her husband Kevin was initially in the dog house.

“I was furious!” said Katy from Bognor Regis, confessing she had been hoping for jewellery.

A former nurse specialising in paediatric cardio thoracic surgery, Katy trained at Guy’s Hospital.

“I was lucky enough to see one of the first hole-in-the-heart repairs on a baby and I absolutely loved nursing,” said the 46-year-old.

“I moved to West Sussex and continued my career, but stopped to nurse family members.

“When it was time to return to work, it was very strange: I found I didn’t want to go back. But I didn’t know what I did want to do”.

Cue Kevin’s unconventional gift. Convincing Katy it could be a viable business, the pair began renovating the van.

“We had to teach ourselves everything about whippy ice cream because all the manuals were in Italian,” laughs Katy. Ice cream, however, is in Katy’s blood.

“Dad was a very good chef and he worked at places like the BBC and Buckingham Palace. Along the way he worked with the Italian chef who first brought whippy ice cream over to the UK for mass market. He and the chef worked on a recipe for Walls and other ice cream companies.”

“I want to try making my own scoop ice cream, using as few chemicals as possible and with fantastic local ingredients.

“It’s quite a scientific process, but dad is getting his old recipe books out and we’re going to give it a go”.

Another key member of the family is Georgia, Katy’s daughter.

Known as Little Miss Whippy, Georgia looks after the company’s vintage Pashley ice cream tricycle, Rosie.

“Rosie is a traditional English-made tricycle, which is very important to us, but she has a state-of-the-art freezer that runs for up to eight hours,” says Katy.

With traditional family values central to the Pinks’ philosophy, as well as her dad and Georgia’s involvement, Katy’s current van is named after her late mum.

“My three siblings all have very professional careers.

“It took mum a while to get used to me being Mrs Whippy, but she loved it and naming the van ‘Patsy’ after her makes me feel there is a bit of her with us still.”

Bringing instant cheer, it does seem the chimes of an ice cream van have a nostalgic quality that transports people back to childhood. Katy agrees.

“Those chimes bring people together. People chat over ice cream; it takes you back to family basics of talking and listening.”

Loving the opportunities to meet people that being Mrs Whippy brings, Katy and Patsy are often to be found at local events and weddings – and even in TV and film studios when a vintage ice cream van is required.

Beaming, Katy says: “There’s not a day when I don’t see people smiling and waving as I go past in Patsy.

“It instantly gives me a boost”.

More information at www.pinks-vintage-icecream.co.uk.