by Jake Fernberg; Photography Courtesy of J-Pops
Don’t call J-Pops Popsicles, or Steve White, the owner of J-Pops, will quickly correct you. He’ll tell you why J-Pops are actually best defined as artisan ice pops—popsicles are a brand name, not the name of a kind of treat (think Jell-O), and J-Pops is not a subsidiary of Unilever. While there is seemingly an entire aisle reserved for popsicles in supermarkets nationwide, J-Pops are available only in Columbus. And most importantly, J-Pops are also handcrafted, all natural, and truly gourmet, unlike corn syrup-laden, mass-produced ice pops.
Steve’s journey with J-Pops begins with the devastation caused by the March 2011 earthquake in Japan. Steve was living in Atlanta and began selling the handmade ice pops he had been “experimenting” making to help support victims of the earthquake. After his first foray into selling gourmet ice pops, Steve moved back to Columbus (he grew up here) and realized that despite a “new trend of gourmet ice pops” emerging around the country, there was a lack of handmade artisan ice pops in Central Ohio. J-Pops officially became a business in 2012 to change that.
Despite their exotic flavors like mango-lemonade, watermelon papaya, and strawberry rosemary, J-Pops themselves are deceivingly simple. The gourmet ice pops are normally composed of between four and five ingredients, are preservative and additive free, and, for the most part, made by hand by Steve himself. The flavor roster is always changing; Steve sells around five varieties from his J-pop cart, and the flavors he carries for the day are often specified for events. He says that at a kid-friendly event, he “avoids more adventurous flavors” like honeydew and cracked black pepper—which he is currently working on perfecting—in lieu of simpler flavors like cherry limeade.
When I asked Steve about the future of J-Pops, I received a very thoughtful reply. He finds some issues with potentially having a storefront: ice pops are a seasonal product, and Columbus has, if we’re lucky, six months of frozen treat appropriate weather. More optimistically, Steve told me that his cart “is a store on wheels” and presents distinct advantages over a brick and mortar location. He tells me that the favorite part of his job is being out in the open air, selling his ice pops, directly interacting with customers all over Columbus, and being able to see the “instant feedback” customers give to his handmade products.
J-Pops can be found at select Columbus farmers markets. On Wednesdays, Steve is at the Uptown Westerville Farmers Market, and either the New Albany Farmers Market or the Bexley Farmers Market on Thursdays. For busy Saturday mornings, J-Pops has a presence at both the Clintonville and Worthington Farmers Markets. The J-Pops cart also makes appearances at citywide events like Comfest, Festival Latino, and the Goodale Park Music Series. J-Pops is also available for catering private events, like birthday parties or corporate events.
Learn more about J-Pops (including an updated schedule of cart locations) at myjpops.com.