It’s impossible to fully comprehend the local treasure that is Sonny’s without knowing something about our roots. So here is an attempt to share nearly 70 years of history in a few short paragraphs. Enjoy!
Sonny Siron’s family was from Calabria, Italy.
They named Sonny “Martin” at his birth so that he could better fit in to American life, but his Mama always called him Sonny.
And Mama is always right, so it’s “Sonny” that stuck.
Sonny’s early life was marked by baseball, World War II, and a young Minneapolis. He worked at the old Nicollet Park Baseball Field (home of the Millers) and was an amazing baseball player. He was even drafted by the Chicago Cubs, but decided instead to stay home with Mama. He briefly served in WWII and believed that he was protected by Saint Christopher during that tenuous time.
In 1945, after Sonny got home from the war, he went to work at Ralph's ice cream shop.
While there, he met a beautiful woman named Joan, who later became his wife. Joan was known by the nickname “Jiggs” throughout her life. Sonny was 20 and Jiggs was 17 when they met.
They were a memorable pair
Jiggs was 100% French, pretty, highly intelligent and opinionated. Sonny was 100% Italian, loved people and never tired of talking to them.
In 1950, Sonny and Jiggs bought his uncle’s business and moved it to 34th & Lyndale, where it is now.
They changed the name to Sonny’s. They had an old fashioned soda fountain with malts, hamburgers and french fries. People still have lots of fun memories from that time, like going to Sonny’s for lunch from Lyndale School, which is now Painter Park. Sonny and Jiggs always dressed in white and Jiggs would smoke long cigarettes and talk politics while she served people.
Sonny and Jiggs raised their son Ron and his sister above the business.
Their home was approximately 500 square feet, and it’s the space that now houses the Sonny’s office.
As a little boy, Ron took naps under the soda fountain in the malt shop and started his career in the business as a toddler putting the cherries on sundaes.
Ron grew up working in the business with his parents, so when his mother suddenly passed in 1980, he decided to become his father’s business partner. The two of them closed the malt shop and operated quietly for years simply selling their famous ice cream--Authentic Spumoni--to fine restaurants and specialty grocery stores.
Then Carrie Gustafson came along.
In 1992, on one of her very special trips to Italy, Carrie found her calling. On an evening stroll she walked into her favorite gelato shop for an affogato and
the ice cream fairy tapped her on the shoulder.
When she got home, she immediately started researching her new passion, ICE CREAM!
Carrie's search led her to Penn State University, where she went to “ice cream school.” Returning to Minneapolis, she happened upon the real deal—Ron and Sonny making pure, delicious, genuine batches at Sonny’s Ice Cream.
Upon meeting, Ron and Carrie couldn't stop talking about their shared passions:
Food, flavor, and the very best ice cream in the world.
It was destiny. Carrie and Ron even have the same birthday.
After putting in many hours of “volunteer” work at Sonny’s Ice Cream,
Carrie and Ron decided to open a cafe under the same roof where Sonny’s Ice Cream is made and where Ron was born and raised.
Around this time, Sonny was ready to retire and just be Sonny. Ron purchased the business from his father.
Carrie and Ron’s vision was that this place was not going to be a fluorescent lit, peppermint bon bon shop.
This unique space was going to be like one of those cafes that Carrie had visited in Italy, the Siron family’s cultural home.
Their cafe would be a unique place in Minneapolis, where people could escape and feel like they were on vacation. Carrie and Ron rolled up their sleeves, and worked night and day creating the cafe where the soda shop had been opened, nearly 50 years prior.
Crema Cafe was born in February 1994.
Crema was one of the first coffee shops in the Twin Cities. In the beginning, Carrie and Ron had to give away espresso drinks to get people to try them because very few people in Minneapolis even knew what espresso was!
Carrie and Ron worked hard to fulfill their promise of a quality experience for café visitors. They were open from 6 am to midnight every day for 7 years while building the business. Through consistent hard work and an unrelenting passion,
every single 5-gallon batch was better than the last. And continues to be.
Though no longer an owner or operator of the business,
Sonny continued to be a daily presence in the café until he passed away in 2007.
He sat at the tables, greeting and chatting with customers, reveling in knowing their children and their children’s children as the years went by. Watching this rich tapestry unfold in his later life created a stockpile of memories for Ron and Carrie and for the community.
In 2015, paying tribute to this rich history and the deep family roots
that created the foundation for their current business, Carrie and Ron decided to rename Crema Cafe:
It’s now Sonny’s Cafe.
They continue to create ice cream—and now gelato and sorbet--the way it has been made since 1945:
In small, handcrafted batches made from fresh, whole ingredients.
Sonny is still with us today:
In our ice cream and gelato, our food, our yummy desserts, our amazing wine selection, and most importantly--our space.
If you are willing,
you can picture him sitting at one of our piazza tables outside, smiling his usual welcome as you enter the cafe.
Come see us!
It would be a privilege to fold your experience here into our history.
We are grateful for our Sonny's family and we want you to be part of it in the years to come.
- Ron Siron and Carrie Gustafson