Ice cream parlour to be frozen in time

Maria Ebblewhite in a booth of her dad's cafe "Johns Cafe" Wingate
Maria Ebblewhite in a booth of her dad's cafe "Johns Cafe" Wingate

WORK is almost complete on transferring every last fitting and fixture of a much-loved former ice cream parlour to be preserved forever in a new home at Beamish Museum.

John’s Cafe, in Front Street, Wingate, was run by John Parisella and his family from the early 1950s and was a popular “hang-out” for local teenagers.

But it closed the day John died, aged 82, in April 2005 – 110 years after the shop first opened.

His son Mario, now 55, didn’t have the heart to open back up, says John’s daughter Maria Ebblewhite, 51.

The shop appeared to be frozen in time, complete with its original carved benches, wooden counters, smoked glass and bevelled mirrors.

Now the cafe, which also sold meals, tobacco and confectionary, will be a living legacy to the Parisellas and the place it held in Wingate’s heart when it gets rebuilt as part of a new 1950s town at Beamish Open Air Museum, near Stanley.

Maria, who still lives in Wingate, not far from the original shop, said: “It’s been heartbreaking to see it go.

“But we are happy with where it’s going and to know it’s going to be there forever – it’s the end of one era and the beginning of another.

“It’s being built in exactly the same way – walking through the doors there will be liking walking through the doors in here.”

John, had run fish and chip businesses in Alnwick, as his Italian parents had, before marrying his Italian wife Iva and settling in Wingate after finding the shop.

The store was in a poor condition when they arrived, but they chose to restore, rather than remove, historical features.

John, also dad to David, 56, had turned down repeated offers from auctioneers wanting to buy the original fixtures and fittings.

Speaking in 1994, he said: “It’s exactly the same now as it was when I bought it and the shop hasn’t been changed since it first opened in 1895.”

Almost predicting the future, he added: “It’s like being in Beamish Museum, or walking back in time.”

Gina told the Mail: “It was the main hub of the village, it had a jukebox there and was open from early on a morning to late at night.

“I’ve got some excellent memories of the place, even our little ones now do.

“One that sticks out the most is when I was little standing in the compartments watching all the teenagers rocking and rolling in the aisle.

“I always used to think I wanted to do that when I grew up.”

John’s legacy is living on in Beamish and also in youngsters of the village.

His great-granddaugher Ellie Bridgewater and her classmates at St Mary’s Primary School are following the progress of the move to Beamish.

The family will officially open the cafe’s new home at Beamish in around five years time.

Meanwhile the Wingate premises will be turned into accommodation.

Anyone with memories of the cafe can email clarawoolford@beam