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Three Generations Of Taking it Cool in Ices Biz

Special to The News

Three industrious relatives are working to expand a once-tiny family business scoop by scoop.

The grandsons of Ralph Silvestro hope to make his name synonymous with Italian ices well beyond their native Staten Island.

Ralph's Ices on Port Richmond Ave. has been an area landmark for a half-century, boasting lines of customers that stretch all the way to the street from April to October. (In the colder months, they leave the ice business to Mother Nature.)

Ralph's Ices is in its third generation, run by three of Ralph's grandsons — 32-year-old Michael Scolaro, and his 38-year-old brother, John, as well as their cousin, Larry Silvestro, 43.

A few decades ago, while working for their mothers — Ralph's two daughters took over the business in 1965 — Michael, John and Larry suggested selling ices by the tub to area pizza joints and delis.

"This was just a natural progression. We didn't come up with a grand scheme," said Michael Scolaro.

When they took over a few years ago — dates are hazy in family lore — they began introducing their grandfather's ices on Long Island and in New Jersey, where summer demand boomed.

Grandfather Ralph, born in Naples, Italy, started selling lemon and orange ices in 1928 from his garage in the Elm Park section of Staten Island. In 1949, he opened up the Port Richmond Ave. store, which still houses the business, where he sold ices for two cents a scoop.

He passed on his secrets to the men in the family, who still make the ices, while the women were up front doing the scooping.

Their grandfather, who died in 1986, left them this piece of advice: Never take short cuts.

"It doesn't pay. You're gonna taste the difference," Larry Silvestro said of the 70 flavors, some of which they created.

"We always try and out do each other," admitted Michael Scolaro, who's credited in the family with creating strawberry daiquiri, lemon meringue and Malibu Bay Breeze — a combination of coconut, cranberry and rum flavors.

These days, the icemen work full-time, along with about 20 part-timers.

John came on board after getting a taste of being his own boss while selling ices on a Ralph's truck. He decided to quit his construction job and go into the family business full-time. Michael and Larry also were lured back after pursuing other careers.

Original Publication Date: 06/01/1999

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