LAWRIE Jenman, the co-founder of one of the district’s best-known brands New Forest Ice Cream, has died at the age of 80 after a short illness.
Lawrie, who with his wife Sue launched the company now based at Ampress Park, on the edge of Lymington, passed away on 22nd August.
From small beginnings together they developed a business which now sells ice cream across the country. It all started when they bought the post office in Everton.
At the age of five, daughter Christina mentioned to her father how the ice cream delivery truck had always run out by the time it arrived to the couple’s shop.
She said: “That’s what got him thinking after I said, ‘Why don’t you start making ice cream?’”
Having researched the possibility, the couple realised they may be onto a winner and established the family business in 1983 after leaving the post office.
The recipe came from a specialist flavouring house to which they added “a few tweaks” – the family mix is still used to this day as the base for all their flavours.
Having started selling it in local shops, word soon got round and the Jenmans found they had a best-seller on their hands. They were soon supplying local hotels, cafes, restaurants and even cruise ships.
Their first factory was based at Gordleton in Sway. In 1990 they moved to a bigger processing plant at Hounsdown, Totton. Just over 10 years later they moved again to Southampton, splitting manufacturing and distribution due to expansion.
But in 2013, to Lawrie’s great delight, the company was able to move back “home” to the New Forest in a state-of-the-art factory at Ampress Park which his son Graham had designed.
In a few short years it had evolved into a £5m business which each week uses 12,000 litres of milk and 4,000 litres of double cream to churn out 55,000 litres of ice cream.
Over the years there have been more than 100 flavours created, with the ice cream winning numerous awards. It is now supplied to farm shops, restaurants, hotels, pubs and leisure parks across the UK.
Over time, his children Karen, Graham and twins Niki and Christina, joined the family business as Lawrie stepped back from the operation.
He was born in Chigwell, Essex, to parents Len and Lily. During the Second World War he was looked after by his grandmother on her farm in the countryside as his mother and father were involved in war work.
In 1944 the family moved to St Leonard’s in Hasting where Len acquired some land in nearby Bexhill, and he built housing estates, including the family’s home.
After school he went to work for International Stores, becoming a relief manager within two years. He was still only 19 when he opened a store of his own. He then met wife-to-be Sue who was then a 17-year-old bank clerk.
They married in 1962 by which time Lawrie had moved to bigger shop premises in Maidstone. They settled in Tenterden, Kent, where they started their family.
Lawrie was keen to start his own business and London estate agent suggested the post office in Everton which was up for sale – where their New Forest Ice Cream adventure began.
Lawrie was very proud of the business he and Sue had built from scratch to become one of the UK’s leading ice cream manufacturers, and was loathe to retire from it.
But eventually he allowed Niki and Christina, along with cousin Dave Bishop, to take over the reins in 2015. Lawrie always remained an active figure within the company, however, and it continued to be run with the same family-based ethos and values he and Sue lived by.
Lawrie was described by his family as being “practical, clever with his hands and determined to succeed in whatever he did”.
When his death was announced on the company’s Facebook page many people posted tributes to Lawrie, One wrote: “What a fantastic legacy in New Forest Ice Cream he has left.”