Ice-Pop Biz: Cool And Fresh, But Will It Be Hot?

Roger Horowitz started Pleasant Pops with his friend Brian Sykora

Roger Horowitz, right, started Pleasant Pops with his friend Brian Sykora. They sell their pops at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market in Washington, D.C. Andrea Hsu/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Andrea Hsu/NPR

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."

Brian Sykora i i

Brian Sykora presses blackberries through a sieve for blackberry and cream ice pops. Pleasant Pops currently rents kitchen space at a cafe for two hours a week. Andrea Hsu/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Andrea Hsu/NPR
Brian Sykora

Brian Sykora presses blackberries through a sieve for blackberry and cream ice pops. Pleasant Pops currently rents kitchen space at a cafe for two hours a week.

Andrea Hsu/NPR

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.

Pleasant Pops are made with fresh fruit from the farmers market. i i

Pleasant Pops are made with fresh fruit from the farmers market, and milk and cream from a local dairy. Andrea Hsu/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Andrea Hsu/NPR
Pleasant Pops are made with fresh fruit from the farmers market.

Pleasant Pops are made with fresh fruit from the farmers market, and milk and cream from a local dairy.

Andrea Hsu/NPR

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."

Strawberry Rhubarb Pops From Pleasant Pops

Recipe makes about 40 fluid ounces or 20 2-ounce pops.

What you'll need:
Ice Pop tray or disposable cup
Ice pop sticks
1 bunch of rhubarb (approximately 10 stalks)
2 cups of strawberries (about 2/3 pint)
1 cup of sugar (any type but we use organic cane sugar)
pot for boiling rhubarb
sieve
blender

Directions:

Part 1:
Take rhubarb and remove all leaves and ends.
Cut remaining rhubarb into 1 inch chunks and put in a pot on the stove.
Add water until the rhubarb is barely covered and boil until rhubarb breaks down and loses its shape.

Part 2:
Take 2 cups of fresh strawberries and remove stems.
Blend strawberries in a blender until completely broken down.
Strain strawberries through a sieve into a mixing bowl to remove majority of seeds.

Part 3:
Combine rhubarb and strawberry juice in a blender and stir in one cup of sugar.
Blend until well mixed.

Part 4:
Pour mixture into cups or molds and insert sticks.
Freeze overnight.

Part 5:
Enjoy the next day! If pop isn't coming out of cup or mold, try running the outside of the cup under hot water.

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