City South readers know Sonny’s Ice Cream, but who, you might ask, is Sonny? He’s in the photo on the left, beside a photo of his dear wife, “Jiggs.”
Sonny Siron (officially “Martin,” but his Mama called him “Sonny”) was a first-generation American whose family came to the USA from Calabria, Italy. His Uncle Ralph owned an ice cream shop in Minneapolis, where Sonny worked after fighting in WWII. There Sonny met the love of his life, whom everyone knew as Jiggs. In 1950, Sonny and Jiggs bought Uncle Ralph’s business and moved it to 34th and Lyndale, where it stands today. They changed the name to Sonny’s and, in these photos, each stands in front of the shop’s famous old-fashioned soda fountain where they served malts, hamburgers and French fries.
When Jiggs passed away suddenly in 1980, it was just Sonny and Sonny and Jiggs’ son, Ron, so they closed the malt shop and focused on selling their famous ice cream—Authentic Spumoni—to restaurants and specialty grocery stores. Ron and Carrie Gustafson eventually opened another Sonny’s storefront—Sonny’s Crema Café—in 1994. Crema Café was one of the first and preeminent coffee shops in Minneapolis—open from 6 a.m. to midnight 365 days a year. As difficult as it may be to believe today, Carrie and Ron were known to give away espresso drinks because so few Minnesotans knew what espresso was!
Sonny remained a daily presence in the café until his death in 2007. To honor him and his love of the cafe as a meeting spot for family and friends, Carrie and Ron changed the name of Crema Café to Sonny’s Café in 2015.