John Hannam – Andy and Carol are still high fryers!
Andy and Caroline Phillips have been parking their Jolly Fryer fish and chip van outside of my home for 27 years. A few weeks ago I finally realised they might have quite a story
. I managed to talk them into an interview, and when they told me it all began with a holiday romance on Sandown beach, I was hooked. I love happy endings.
Caroline’s family lived in Bristol and they came to the Island the same two weeks every year for their holidays. Andy, who was born in Shanklin, had a small 12ft boat that was used at Dunkirk, and Caroline’s parents owned a speedboat. Her father needed some help in dragging his boat up the beach and offered free rides for willing helpers. Andy saw his chance and took it. He was obviously more interested in the daughter than the speedboat!
After a spell in London, Andy moved to Bristol and they got married in the city. After several years they decided to move to the Island and eventually both worked for Vectis Oils. Andy drove a tanker and Caroline was in the office. Looking to run their own business, they eventually bought the Jolly Fryer fish and chip business. Had they made the right move? Now, nearly 30 years on, they certainly did.
Villages like Nettlestone, St Helens, Niton, Chale and Godshill can barely wait to see their van and it’s wonderful aroma of good old British fish and chips. Andy actually designed their current vehicle.
“Over the years we have seen families grow up and know many customers by name. Since we started we have had 32 girls work for us and we still meet some of them,” said Caroline.
I must admit, I was disappointed to arrive in their home and not smell fish and chips. Do they actually ever eat them? Apparently, every Saturday lunchtime because they have a long day ahead, which ends with a deep clean until the early hours of the following morning.
They did have a problem in one Island village. Two ladies in the queue started a brawl and were punching each other. Andy said: “It got a bit violent and Caroline asked me what she should do. I told her to ask them if they wanted salt and vinegar on their chips. They stopped to tell her — and then carried on fighting.”
It can get very hot in the van. Andy has known it to reach 50 degrees. In the past summer they had to cancel one trip on a very hot day because there was too much of a strain on the refrigeration system in the vehicle.
They once luckily avoided a very serious accident at a private booking at a posh house in Wootton. Andy said: “It was an important event and there were some French people attending. They loved it all and were filming us on their camcorders. We managed to keep smiling despite seeing the range had caught fire. Somehow I managed to put out the flames and we got away with it.”
Away from work, they have been to Spain and Portugal on their motorbike and on one occasion, with their son Jacob, affectionately once known in St Helens as the ‘chippy baby’, they hired a Mustang Soft Top for a Californian road trip. Andy has also been to India on a sponsored cycle ride.
Thankfully, they have no plans to retire, providing they can keep up with technology, rules and regulations and mounting paperwork.
I left the final words to Caroline, whose smile warms the hearts of many people. She said: “The most important thing for us is that customers go away not feeling ripped off. We want them to be comfortable, full-up and to enjoy what they’ve eaten.”