Ice-Pop Biz: Cool And Fresh, But Will It Be Hot?
A year and a half ago, Brian Sykora was walking down Mount Pleasant Street in Washington, D.C., saw an empty storefront, and asked his friend Roger Horowitz, "Want to start a business?"
That was the seed for Pleasant Pops -- a venture that Sykora and Horowitz, both 25, hope to turn into a sustainable business.
The two had tasted paletas, a traditional Mexican frozen treat made from fresh fruit, near Horowitz's hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y., and thought, why not try making fresh fruit Popsicles in Washington? They soon discovered that the word "Popsicle" is a registered trademark owned by Unilever, so they decided to go with the more generic term "ice pops."
While the storefront has yet to become a reality, the duo have secured a catering license and rented kitchen space, where they make a couple hundred ice pops each week. This summer, they've been selling their creations from a bicycle cart at a weekly farmers market. The pops sell for $2.50 each, and sales have been brisk.
"When it's pouring down rain, people don't want pops anymore," Sykora says. "But if it's 102 degrees, we can draw a crowd."
They source all their ingredients locally. Fresh fruit and vegetables come from the farmers market, while milk and cream come from a local dairy. Pleasant Pops' flavors change from week to week. The best selling pop so far has been cucumber chili, a favorite in Mexico. In all, Sykora and Horowitz have tried out about 60 different recipes. Among those that have made it to market: strawberries and cream, blackberries, basil and cream, peaches and ginger, watermelon black pepper, and watermelon cucumber.
There are other gourmet ice pop shops around the country, including People's Pops in New York City, GoodPop in Austin, Texas, and Las Paletas in Nashville, Tenn. Since its first appearance at the farmers market just before July 4, Pleasant Pops has been getting rave reviews in Washington, D.C.
Sykora and Horowitz, who were classmates at the University of North Carolina, say they each spend 30 to 40 hours a week on the business, and that's on top of their day jobs. Horowitz is a preschool teacher, and Sykora works at the National Democratic Institute.
So far, they're not making a living from Pleasant Pops.
"Not yet," Horowitz says, "but we hope to in the near future."
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