Not-so-‘dirty’ ice cream brings in clean profit
Cusi brothers revive the cool family businessBy Yolanda Sotelo
Inquirer Northern Luzon
DAGUPAN CITY—Don’t call this ice cream “dirty.”
Children in many provinces have fond memories of homemade ice cream sold by ambulant vendors pushing wooden carts. Their presence, announced by that familiar sound of handheld bells, was enough to rouse the kids from their siesta and gather in the streets for a sweet afternoon treat.
Out of place
But calling this ubiquitous Filipino snack—which comes in cheese, chocolate and fruit flavors—“dirty” seems to be out of place, says Rolando Cusi, a local ice cream producer.
“Such sweeping reputation is unfair. We definitely produce and sell clean ice cream with fresh, natural ingredients like fruits in season, cheese and chocolate. They are not only delicious but also nutritious,” Cusi, 43, says.
“And please don’t underestimate the ice cream sold in carts as it sent eight siblings to school and enable them to complete university education,” he adds.
Cusi and his brother, Edwin, are reviving the long-time business of their late father, Nestor, who started as “sorbetero” (ice cream vendor) until he became one of the three known ice cream makers in the city.
Nestor’s Ice Cream was one of the products identified by the city government as “Dagupan’s Best.”
Cusi says that from the 1950s to the early 2000s, there were three ice cream factories in the city and their carts were always seen on streets and near schools. These were the Kapalaran, Bagong Sikat and Nestor’s Ice Cram. Kapalaran had closed shop while Bagong Sikat is run by a son of the owner, but with much fewer carts.
“They were three young friends from Batangas, one of them was my father, who came to Dagupan a couple of years before it became a city in 1947. The two established ice cream factories—Kapalaran and Bagong Sikat—and my father, who was so poor, was a sorbetero, their vendor,” Cusi says.
Nestor met Liduvina Estrada, a Dagupena, who became his wife. “They knew the hard life. My father did odd jobs, like being a helper in the kitchen, while my mother was a ‘labandera’ (laundry woman). My father finished only Grade 2 and my mother was a high school graduate. They always told us to study hard so we won’t experience the difficult life they went through,” Cusi says.
He still remembers his father’s encouraging words: “Study hard, and as long as I am able, I will support you.”
He kept his word. “Through selling ice cream and the support of my mother, two of my eldest sisters finished civil engineering and dentistry, respectively,” Cusi says.
When Suzanne, the dentist, was working abroad, she sent money to her father to establish his own ice cream factory in 1986, and life became a little easier.
“Because of ice cream, all of us eight children were able to complete college education— two are civil engineers (Amelita and Wilfredo), one is a dentist (Suzanne), one a doctor (Ruby), one finished medical technology (Teresita), one is an accounting graduate (Lily) and one finished nursing (Edwin),” says Cusi, an aviation electronics engineer.
While all employed, the Cusi siblings decided to revive the business as a tribute to their hardworking father.
Cusi and Edwin are directly engaged in the business, with Rolando involved in finance and research and development while Edwin is in charge of marketing.
“I knew the ins and outs of the ice cream making business. When I was young, I assisted my father, from making ice cream to managing the business. Thus, I was able to run the business on my own when my mother was hospitalized in Manila and my father had to stay with her,” he says.
Cusi speaks proudly of his father’s product: “It was sweet, thick and chewy, not like the other ice cream products that are soft or watery.”
“Stop calling it dirty ice cream. It could even be cleaner than the commercial ice cream which could have preservatives. Besides, we use only natural ingredients like fresh fruits, fresh coconut milk, chocolates and cheese. We don’t use extracts or artificial flavoring or food coloring,” he adds.
The Nestor’s Ice Cream factory has been accepting orders from customers, especially from those who are familiar with the taste and consistency of its products.
Cusi says their bestsellers are avocado, ube, mango, pineapple, cheese, vanilla and chocolate ice cream. They also plan to add new products like ice cream in cups and pinipig crunch.
“We are not concerned about shelf life of our products because what we produce is good only for the day, or at most, two days,” Cusi says.
He recalls that his father did not encourage him and his siblings to go into the ice cream business. “But we want his legacy to continue, and we are using modern technology to create a better product,” he says.
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