Published: 00:00, 10 July 2015
| Updated: 10:39, 10 July 2015
For those who grow up in Gravesend a trip to the prom on a summer’s day is a childhood institution, and no day by the river is ever complete without an ice cream from the Prom Cafe.
Lying just off Gordon Promenade, it has always been the place to go for a cup of tea, a fry-up, burger and chips or just somewhere to pass the hours watching the ships go by.
Darren Oxley, 47, has been running the cafe since his late mother Janet bought it in 1985.
He also owns Nanny Janet’s cafe in Milton Road and has been behind the counter of his family’s riverside business since his teens.
Mr Oxley has built up a close rapport with his loyal clientele over the years.
He said: “The fantastic thing is, we have been here for 30 years and the people who come here are a group that have been doing so since they were children, and now they’re in their 30s and 40s.”
Mr Oxley’s wife Gaynor and his twin daughters, Connie and Graceson, 18, all chip in to keep customers happy.
To walk into the cafe is to take a step back in time – the walls are covered with old black and white photos showing a Gravesend of a different era and the decor is endearingly old school.
One of the photos is of Mr Oxley’s great-grandfather Constantine Oxley, standing proudly in front of his greengrocer’s and fishmonger’s in Milton Road more than 80 years ago.
The greengrocer’s would later be used again by the family for Nanny Janet’s.
Even the ice cream has a nostalgic feel – people can enjoy more than 40 traditional flavours including rum and raisin, mint choc chip and toffee.
Mr Oxley said that, like his customers, his ice cream supplier is one he has known for decades.
He is one of the select few business in the south east who is allowed to sell Kelly’s of Cornwall ice cream.
He said: “There’s nobody around here that can stock Kelly’s apart from us. We have 42 flavours of their ice cream.
“We do ice-cream sundaes and milkshakes and we get kids coming in getting what I’d call a Coke-a-float. They’ve been recommended it by their parents but they don’t know what it is.
“My daughter worked out there was 47,000 milkshake variations due to the number of ice cream flavours we stock.”
The cafe has been open since 1952, and during that time it has kept many people fed and watered, with even the occasional celebrity popping in.
Mr Oxley said: “We had the cast of Grange Hill here in the 80s, it was when we had just started at the cafe. There used to be an Edwardian fair here [by the river] and they always had someone famous to open it.
“We also had [the band] Manfred Mann here once – I think I upset the lead singer, though.
“I put their song on because I thought he would like to hear it but he was very religious and was preaching at the time so I don’t think he was too impressed.”
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