When New York natives Roger Horowitz and Brian Sykora moved to D.C. about four years ago, they couldn't find any of the Mexican fruit pops, known as paletas, they enjoyed growing up.
The former college roommates instead learned how to make the popsicles themselves using local, fresh ingredients with hopes of one day opening their own store.
Three years after founding Pleasant Pops, known for its farmers market stand and brightly colored food truck, the pair signed a lease last week to open an Adams Morgan storefront in July. Their frozen treats are sold at Campus Fresh and a nearby farmers market.
“We always wanted a store. That was what we originally tried to do, and then we realized that we didn’t have the money, and we didn’t have enough of a history as a business to get a loan,” Horowitz said.
A groundswell of online support from nearly 350 donors brought Pleasant Pops to its fundraising target of $20,000 in just eight days, bringing in enough money to help finance the start-up’s next step. After using their savings to fund their stand and truck, the pair needed a quicker flow of cash to open a store by the summer. As of April 8, the duo raised $22,380.
Horowitz and Sykora said support for Pleasant Pops boomed to meet 60 percent of its goal the same day the duo launched an online donation account March 29.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God I hope we can raise that much in a month,’ and it was like a week,” Horowitz said.
Located at the corner of Florida and 18th streets, just north of U Street, Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market and Café will go beyond current offerings to feature sandwiches, salads, butters and jams from vendors at the city’s Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market – the source of the company’s name – and other suppliers.
After launching the farmers market stand in 2009, the two former classmates expanded their business to offer catering, farmers market stands at other locations and a food truck they call Big Poppa. Pleasant Pops uses organic and local ingredients to make 40 flavors, including strawberry ginger lemonade, pineapple basil, hibiscus and Mexican chocolate – chocolate blended with cinnamon and hot peppers.
For the past three years, the ice pop company has frequented four locations across the District, including a once-weekly stint at the Foggy Bottom FRESHFARM market, which runs near the Eye Street Mall every Wednesday from April to November.
The truck also lands on H Street in warm weather – a prime location they said, because the younger demographic in Foggy Bottom has proven to be popsicle-lovers.
Horowitz and Sykora met as undergraduates at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and reunited as business partners in 2009. The pair began by testing new and unique popsicle flavors with their friends before starting a stand in a farmers market near their apartment.
“There would just be a ton of people coming over to Roger’s apartment and we would just eat popsicles. It was literally a popsicle party,” senior Daniel Mizrachi, said.
Horowitz and Sykora, who together formed a campus sustainability group in college, have used fresh, locally grown products from the start – a commitment that will carry over into their brick and mortar shop this summer.
“It all comes down to the ingredients. Good ingredients make good pops,” Horowiz said. “We also just want to make people happy, people are really happy when they eat ice pops.”