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Entrepreneurs take popsicles to new level

Agri Culture
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 03:27 PM

Who doesn't love popsicles? Those easy-to-hold treats are a delight in Florida's heat, and they're fun for kids and adults alike. A business in Sarasota is using seasonally available produce from around the state to make gourmet popsicles.

Pop Craft opened its storefront a few weeks ago and will have its grand opening with champagne and popsicles in late October. The business has been around since 2009, with the popsicles sold at farmers' markets, food trucks and other mobile locations.

However, these aren't your grandmother's popsicles, said co-owner Donna Tortorice, who operates Pop Craft with her son Martin Scott. Consider these flavors: Blueberry Lemon Basil. Pineapple Cilantro. Golden Kiwi and Strawberry. Caramel Sea Salt. Mexican Chocolate Dip with Macadamia.

Tortorice and her son want to support local farm businesses, so seasonal availability affects what items are available. For example, they sell a variety of strawberry-based pops in strawberry season. In the summer, they make some great pops from Florida-grown mangoes, she said. In the fall, the pops offered often incorporate citrus. There's a cranberry coriander flavor around Christmas.

Scott got the idea for a popsicle shop while working as a sommelier in Atlanta a few years ago, Tortorice said. He saw another business successfully sell popsicles, and he thought the idea might stick in often hot and sticky Florida. After trying some unique recipes that he created, he ventured to the St. Petersburg Farmers Market and sold 500 popsicles in one day.

He realized he was onto something.

Since then, Pop Craft has offered its push carts for use by interested salespeople around southwest and central Florida. For example, they have a location at Prime Outlets in Orlando. They also have a presence in Brevard and Seminole counties as well as various locations in the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota areas.

Plus, some local Marriott hotels sell Pop Craft's confections. "Visitors love that it's a local product," Tortorice said. In season, they sell wholesale 5,000 to 10,000 pops a week.

On a recent Saturday at Pop Craft's new storefront location, a steady stream of customers perused the selections — seen under a glass case, just as with ice cream — and consulted Tortorice over what to buy. "I want something I'm not supposed to have," said one customer. Tortorice had to tell him that most of what they offer isn't that bad for him; in fact, some of the offerings are downright good for you, being made from fruit, herbs, and very little sugar. They style the pops after Mexican paletas, which are essentially popsicles.

Visitors have to first decide if they want an icy flavor, which would lead them to select one of the fruity choices, or creamy, which might lead them to select something more decadent, like white chocolate balsalmic fig, for example — a flavor Tortorice describes as "a funky Fig Newton." The pops are sold for $3.50 to $4 each.

The blueberry lemon basil I had was very tasty; the sweet basil seemed to add just the right hint of something different. Next time, I'd like to try something on the creamy side.

Pop Craft will continue to grow as it expands with the storefront and to more locations, Tortorice and her son believe. It's yet one more innovative way that consumers and local businesses are supporting local farmers.

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