A family-owned ice-cream parlour and pizzeria is planning an exciting move into home-made chocolates and wholesale – and a delayed 50th birthday celebration.
Bonnie Rowley is the third generation of her family to run the Glaslyn Ice Cream Parlour and Pizzeria in Beddgelert where Italy meets Wales in the heart of Snowdonia.
While lockdown put the anniversary party on hold, it has also given the business an opportunity to become more flexible and innovative.
Among them are wholesale pots of their best-selling, award-winning ice-cream for restaurants, cafes and shops in Snowdonia and across North Wales, click and collect pizza and home-made waffles with a move into ice cream-themed chocolates coming later in the year.
Their pizzas have Welsh names like Gelert, Eryri and Llywelyn and they use locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible.
The expansion was inspired by Bonnie enrolling on a business course run by the North Wales Business Academy, a collaboration between Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Bangor University and Wrexham Glyndwr University.
It has already seen her turn seasonal and part-time jobs at the café-restaurant in Beddgelert into full-time, year-round roles.
Bonnie, 32, said: “We are serious about sustainability. To us that means caring about our team, our community, our customers, the environment and our planet by working towards becoming carbon neutral.
“This is about marking 50 years in business but it’s also down to Covid-19 and responding to a changing world – it would be nice to have a party but that will have to wait for now.
“The business goes back to the 1940s with my grandparents selling textile products across North Wales but in 1970 they bought the café and shop in Beddgelert, put a soft-serve ice-cream machine in the window and the rest is history.
“It was my dad, Derek, who took advantage of his parents going away on holiday to throw out the textiles, turn the shop into an ice-cream parlour and concentrate on the café with my mum, Elaine.”
Pizzas came later but the home-made ice-cream has been the cornerstone of the business ever since and Bonnie, who turned down a career as a Catering Manager in Coventry working for English Heritage, came home to join the business in 2016.
Now the University of South Wales graduate is in charge and she said: “My heart has always really been in the business, helping my dad make ice-cream, while my mum, Elaine, who is a chef, ran the café.
“I’ve bought the business which I’ve worked in most of my life and we’ve got a core team of 10 employees including myself.
“The team were furloughed during the recent lockdown but we are getting ready for the easing of restrictions and will be recruiting more staff, including seasonal student contracts for the holidays and weekends.”
The Strategic Business Analysis course she did gave her a grounding in the mechanics of running the business and she has also put her catering manager, Beth Williams, through a digital marketing course with NWBA.
The knowledge and skills Bonnie gained have helped her create year-round jobs instead of seasonal work, retaining skills and knowledge as well as creating permanent employment in the local area.
NWBA Project Manager for Bangor University Lesley Rider said: “We have a mentoring system in place and Bonnie’s mentor, Lawrence Cox, has kept in close touch and the plans they had put in place helped her through the difficulties of 2020.
“Instead of firefighting as many others did, Bonnie was able to look back at her long-term business development and product expansion plans and consider what changes needed to be made to keep the business on track.
“It’s beneficial for businesses to take a step back and see the big picture. When firefighting it feels like there’s no time to take part in courses, but the courses help business-owners to think innovatively and creatively and that has never been more important.”
Over 300 companies have attended NWBA courses since it was launched in and in the last six months 105 students have enrolled on its social media courses for businesses.
The board of directors includes representatives from the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of Wales, and the Federation of Small Businesses. It is funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government.
Bonnie added: “Lockdown enabled me to plan a new winter product, the ice-cream inspired chocolates, to support the new approach to staffing and we moved into wholesale to supply a local campsite with tubs of our award-winning ice-cream.
“The family banded together to help and my brother, Adam, an actor in London, created a website for click and collect takeaway orders and the site is now incorporated into our plans for customers to be able to order their Christmas chocolates online.
“We’ve always been innovative – we were probably one of the first places to do pizza when my mum introduced it and we were the first ice-cream parlour in Snowdonia.
“We all love Italy, its culture and the food but we try to do things our way so the pizza names are Welsh and we use locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible.
“We even brought an Italian pizza guru here to work with us and our premium quality ice-cream is more like traditional gelato but using Welsh milk and butter.”
Ingredients include locally-reared pork as well as Welsh artisan cheeses, Snowdonia mushrooms and crafts beers and cider from within 30 miles and Maggie’s spicy sauce from Penygroes.
The move into wholesale ice cream sales is the biggest step and Bonnie said: “We had been asked to supply campsites for many years and I felt we were missing out.
“I made contacts with people through the North Wales Business Academy and we’ve pushed on with it now without compromising on quality.
“It adds to the business and safeguards us from relying on summer tourism and gives us an alternative source of income all year round.”
The North Wales Business Academy is a partnership between Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Bangor University and Wrexham Glyndwr University, supported by the European Social Fund and the Welsh Government It offers eligible businesses based in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy and Denbighshire up to fully subsidised places on its courses.