Forget lemon lime, cherry and grape: Locopops is turning the Popsicle into a gourmet treat with flavors such as chocolate rosemary, mocha cardamom and chile mango.
Locopops founder Summer Bicknell had planned to run her Durham, N.C., Popsicle stand only during the warm months, but after she opened in June 2005, an outcry from regulars convinced her not to close for the winter. This year, Locopops opened two more storefronts in the area. Now Bicknell and business partner Connie Semans are mulling additional locations and wholesale opportunities.
The store got its name from the reaction of her parents when they learned of her plan. “I started Locopops as a preemptive strike against a midlife crisis,” says Bicknell. “I was dissatisfied with how things were going in my corporate career.”
She was living in Nashville at the time, and happened to taste a paleta, or Mexican fresh-fruit Popsicle, in a shop run by two women from Guadalajara. “I fell in love and decided to follow in their footsteps.”
She quit her job, sold her house, packed up her dogs and went to Mexico, where she had an apprenticeship with a paleta maker. She spoke no Spanish at the time, although she does now. Bicknell spent three months learning the trade, such as how to select fresh ingredients at the market. When she opened in Durham, she embraced the American melting-pot tradition by using flavors from all over the world.
“I’m an adventurous eater,” says Bicknell. “I like discovering places nobody knows about and trying dishes whose names maybe I can’t even pronounce.”
The flavors change weekly, and Locopops uses mostly organic ingredients from local producers. Bicknell also is always open to requests for flavors: She created mango blood orange Popsicles for a couple in their 70s who had eaten the sorbet on their honeymoon in the Caribbean. “They lit up like two lovebirds,” recalls Bicknell. “I got to go back in time with them.”
Nearby, Duke University asked Locopops to create a Southern flavor, so she came up with a Popsicle based on Nan pudding (vanilla pudding with bananas and Nilla Wafers) called Nan Nilla.
The best-selling flavor is Mexican chocolate, followed closely by mojito. Bicknell’s favorite? The first one she tasted: cucumber with chile. “It has a soft, nostalgic place in my heart,” she says.