This summer I’ll have been in France for exactly 10 years, working in luxury real estate. However I’ve always loved classic VW combi vans, and dreamt of having one since I was a teenager.
Two years ago I saw a fabulous vintage ice cream vendor in an old restored VW van at a wedding in the UK. I loved the idea of creating something similar, and so on returning to Provence, tried to find a VW van. It proved too difficult and expensive — then one Sunday I saw an old Renault Estafette at an antiques market. I loved its shape and history — produced from 1959-1980, they were used for French markets, the postal service and the police.
The moment I saw the Estafette, I decided to create Vintage Ice — I designed the name, vintage-style logo and colours conveying a cool, classic, summer feel. I found Esta (as I’ve fondly named her) on leboncoin. She was holed up in a garage in Corsica, rusty and abandoned, but I fell in love with her. The task of fully restoring her would be a challenge, but worth it! It took about six months to redo the mechanics, respray the van and create a side opening for maximum light and accessibility to see the ice creams on display.
Formerly known as “véhicules de collection” and today as "véhicules présentant un intérêt historique", the law stipulates that “classic” vehicles must be over 30 years old and no longer in production — and so Esta has her certificate!
Meanwhile I extensively researched ice creams — I wanted hand-made, with fresh milk and a vegan and organic range. I have 45 flavours from a supplier in Narbonne, which alternate weekly, with 8 to 16 flavours in the van at a time.
One of my most popular items with French customers is a "99" — traditional soft vanilla ice-cream with authentic Cadbury’s Flake chocolate. I have a beautiful Italian soft ice machine — again I took a long time to choose my supplier for this, and found a company in the Luberon run by an Italian gentleman, whose products contain no additives. Funnily enough, he said that 35 years ago, he also had an Estafette and sold ice creams in Italy!
We get many enquiries for private events, but as Esta is an "old girl" so to speak, travelling a maximum of about 40 minutes is her usual limit. From May until mid-September we’re at the Truffaut garden centre in Nîmes on Wednesday afternoons, Saturday, Sundays and public holidays (weather and private bookings permitting), plus the Calan d’Art Festival in Eygalières on 28 July among others, so look out for us!