AN iconic Southend ice cream company has been sold, marking an end to an era in the 90-year-old company’s history.

The Rossi ice cream company has been snapped up by the Party Man group which also owns Marsh Farm.

The company, started by the Rossi family in 1932, was sold to current owner Colin Gray in 2006.

Now Mr Gray, 66, is set to retire but will spend the next two years ensuring a smooth transition in a deal which ensures the jobs of all the current Rossi Staff.

He said: “We transformed the business from the old factory in Lucy Road and moved to Chandlers Way. We didn’t even have barcodes then but we’ve recreated the business and now have Safe and Local Suppliers Approval (SALSA) accreditation which means we can supply Asda. The Co-op and Morrisons and they don’t have to audit us.

“We’ve increased our range over the years and introduced lots of new products.

“Over the last fifteen years we’ve really developed the business and this is the next chapter in the book.”

Echo: Rossi's - an institution in SouthendRossi's - an institution in Southend

Mr Gray was determined not to hand it over to just “anyone” and chose Party Man, owned by Essex businessman James Sinclair.

He said: “It was really important to me that Rossi’s continued, and it carries on with someone who understood its heritage, and was ideally from Essex, who knows just what an important part of our culture Rossi is.

“I’m confident this famous brand will be in good hands whilst retaining the excellent team of staff, and I myself will be continuing with the new owners for the foreseeable future to assist in the progress ahead for Rossi.”

Echo: Secret - the ice cream factory in SouthendSecret - the ice cream factory in Southend

Mr Gray added: “It has been an honour to be the owner of Rossi Ice Cream for 15 years and have met some wonderful people in this time, in the business sector, charities and local community, which we have always strived to be a part of."

The Party Man team have committed to keeping the company firmly attached to its roots, whilst ensuring that it is around to be loved by generations to come.

Mr Sinclair said: “We love family brands, especially ones where we feel it’s our responsibility to look after them for the next generation.

“We are super excited about this, especially with plans to bring a cow to cone philosophy into action. It will be the freshest, best tasting ice cream on the planet!”

Plans for new flavours and new parlours are under way.