AN ICE cream van owner has been named the best in the country.

Tony Roach, who took his wife out on their first date in his van, has been working with ice cream for 40 years.

Now he has been named “Best Mobiler in the UK” by the Ice Cream Alliance, the trade association for the UK’s £1 billion ice cream industry.

Tony operates his eight-strong squad of vans under the Carnival Ice Cream Brand from Eastbourne, where he also lives.

He won the award for his exceptional customer service and dedication to the industry and to his community.

He said: “It’s about longevity, being part of the community and doing your part for charity.

“I’m a great believer in being part of the community and putting a smile on people’s faces which is what selling ice cream is all about.

“We enjoy working with schools and local charities to raise money and over the years we must have raised many thousands of pounds.”

Tony works in the van with wife Yvonne. Recalling their first date he said: “We met in a club and I said I’d pick her up the next day, but she didn’t know what I was going to be driving.

“She was a bit stunned at first but she’s put up with it.

“I can’t remember what we ended up doing, we just went out for something to eat.”

The couple have been together for 35 years and Yvonne said: “It was a great first date and here we are all these years later.

“It’s been a wonderful journey and I am so pleased for Tony who really deserves this award for all his hard work and kindness to others.”

Tony has been in the ice cream business since he was eight years old.

He used to shadow his father in the Sixties before taking up his first van in 1979.

And he says that it is an honour to have claimed this prize, having worked in the business for so long.

He said: “I have a real dedication for restoring vintage ice cream vans, and I take great pride in the appearance of my vans and myself.

“I am extremely passionate about the business.

“I think ice cream really does run through my veins.

“Now to receive this ultimate honour is just fantastic.”