The owners of the family-run seafront ice cream business devastated in last week’s gale force storms have thanked the dozens of volunteers who have pledged to help them.

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But Luke Kent and Gemma Thackway of Devonshire Ice Creams still need a helping hand to enable them to reopen by the summer.

The former Walls outlet has been an Exmouth landmark for half a century, but last Tuesday night Luke looked on helplessly as he watched the business bought by his parents 24 years ago blown on to the shoreline.

Luke, 33, said: “When I saw it, it was hanging by a thread, then I realised we had lost it.”

The building was floating in the water and volunteers were forced to lash huge belts around it.

He said: “The next morning we dismantled it, and we had to do it quickly and pretty brutally. We had no choice – it would have floated out to sea.”

He added: “When I told Gemma, it was heartbreaking. My mum and dad were devastated.”

The couple, from Cranford Avenue, hope to reopen by the summer.

Luke said: “We have got to believe that we will be up and running by the summer – we can’t afford not to be open. But we have resigned ourselves to the fact that we will miss Easter.”

He thanked the volunteers who helped them, including Darren of DJ’s Diner, Chris Wright, architect Matthew Farmer, carpenter Tim Thorne, and Bernard Hughes.

He said: “We were overwhelmed by people’s generosity. We may have lost our livelihoods, but some in the region have lost their homes.

“But until we hear from our insurers we will not know if we will be able to cover the costs of the complete rebuild, to bring it a level that families can enjoy it for another 50 years.

“We are not looking for handouts – just ideas and ways we can bring the building costs down.”

Gemma said: “We would first of all like to say a massive thank you to all our well-wishers over the last week – your kind words and support have really encouraged us to think positively about the rejuvenation of our ice cream shop.”

A district council spokesman said: “We had been liaising with the leaseholder of the ice cream business regarding improvements to the kiosk prior to the unfortunate damage caused by the storms.

“Planning permission would be needed for any significant improvements to the structure and appearance of the structure or for a new building.

“We will continue to work with Mr Kent over his proposals. It will be important that any proposals are in keeping with the Exmouth vision to establish the resort as an attractive 21st century destination for residents and visitors.”

If you can help, go to www.facebook.com/Exmouthicecream or contact David Beasley at the Journal on 01392 888508.

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