End of an era as ‘99’ ice cream pioneer dies

Rudy Arcari holding one of his ice creams. Picture: comp
Rudy Arcari holding one of his ice creams. Picture: comp
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The theme tune from the ­classic film Dr Zhivago echoing around the streets of the Inch could only mean one thing – the arrival of Rudy Arcari’s ice cream van.

Generations will have fond memories of the hard-working ice cream patriarch, whose shop at 99 Portobello High Street was reportedly the real origin of the “99” cone.

Older residents will remember Mr Arcari in his signature blue overalls, smoking a cigar – while younger customers will associate him with a friendly face and a delicious ice cream.Mr Arcari was devoted to his work and to his family – and he even met May, his wife of 51 years, when she started working for him in the shop.

Up until three weeks ago, the 85-year-old great-grandfather was still doing his van rounds and working 14-hour shifts in the Arcari’s Ice Cream factory at the Wisp.

He lost his short battle with stomach cancer on Wednesday – but not before telling his beloved family that he had “no regrets”.

Hundreds are expected to be at Mortonhall Crematorium on Tuesday for his funeral, and Lara’s Theme, the music in his van from the 1965 film Dr Zhivago, will be played at the start of the service.

His daughter Tanya, who now runs the factory, said: “He wasn’t an average 85-year-old. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in January, and we thought he would give up but he said, ‘no, that’s my life’. He carried on working as much as he could. It wasn’t a job that was a burden to him.”

Ms Arcari said his customers were “devastated” when he stepped down three weeks ago. “Even when he wasn’t in the van he was down here six or seven days a week, 14 hours a day,” she said. “When he wasn’t working he was doing odd jobs at home, he could turn his hand to anything. We’ll miss him so much.”

Mr Arcari’s father Stephen came from Italy to Britain after the First World War and set up the Portobello shop in 1922. When he died in his 50s, a young Mr Arcari took over the shop and brought up his siblings, later buying the Wisp factory in the early 1960s.

Arcari’s had 15 ice cream vans at one point, but scaled back a few years ago. The shop on Portobello High Street closed in 2005 after more than 80 years in business, but Mr Arcari was still dedicated to his van round in the Inch area.

Mr Arcari was devoted to his five children, eleven grandchildren, and great-granddaughter. He and his wife, who is 71, had a holiday home in Florida, but would rarely go without some of their grandchildren.

In recent years, they would holiday to Spain to see their son Ronald, but Mr Arcari would always say he missed his van when he was away.

Ms Arcari, 47, said: “He lived for his work and he lived for his children. Everybody knew him. When he was diagnosed he said he’d had a good life with no regrets.

“He got to say goodbye to everyone.”

Family have reasonable claim to inventing famous cone

DESPITE claims that it was invented by Cadbury’s, the Arcari family are certain that the famous “99” ice cream originates from their ice cream shop.

The earliest record of the popular treat was in a Cadbury’s price list in 1935, and it is believed by some that the “99” was dreamt up by the chocolate giant as a marketing slogan.

But the Arcaris say they sold 99s more than ten years before the first recorded Cadbury’s usage – and that the ice-cream was named after the address of the shop, at 99 Portobello High Street. Rudy Arcari once claimed that a Cadbury’s rep could have “borrowed” the idea when he visited the shop to sell Flakes. But sadly there is no written proof to back this up.