Who doesn't love a refreshing little nugget of fruit and sugar and ice, crystallized summertime?" asks the introduction to People's Pops. The answer is obvious–no one. No one doesn't love them because every person loves a ice pop.
That's the democratic idea behind People's Pops, a revolutionary Brooklyn business that is a model for small, artisanal food purveyors. Begun by three friends at the depths of the recession, People's Pops took a lovable treat and turned it into an object of desire, then a pop-up restaurant, two bricks-and-mortar stores, and most recently, a self-titled cookbook.
Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell and Joel Horowitz began their nameless shop in a single day at the request of a friend. There was more demand for handmade ice pops than they ever imagined, and the one-day effort became an incubating business.
The friends experimented with flavors and textures. Straightup Raspberry is intuitive, but the trio wanted to be more mindful in their interpretations. They hoped to support local and regional farmers and orchards with their bulk buys of fruit, as well as tempt potential customers. A little tinkering yielded Roasted Red Plum, Rhubarb and Ginger, Cucumber and Violet, and Sour Cherry and Almond. Looking further for inspiration, they developed recipes for Pear, Cream and ginger pops and Heirloom Pepper shave ice.
Jordi, Carrel and Horowitz studied the artisan cocktail revival to engineer R-rated pops like Blueberry Moonshine, Peach & Bourbon and Cucumber, Elderflower & Tequila. By their second summer in the Brooklyn Flea Market, they had attracted the notice and enthusiasm of New York websites coolhunting and gothamist.
They happily share the trial and error of business development and recipe development. Use grape juice instead of cooking and straining grapes, they counsel for Concord Grape pops. Don't bother straining the seeds from Blackberry and Rose pops if you like the bumpy texture. Don't commit to a big equipment purchase until you are fully ready to be a business.
And they freely admit both in the book and to a class of business students that they had no business plan or long-term strategy. "The monster grows," they write "And we just try to keep up: that's our strategy."
"We continue to be capable of keeping the most important things about our business intact: good local fruit, happy customers, and having fun with each other. Actually, wait: maybe that is our strategy."
–By Nicki Pendleton Wood