king of pops

With summer in full swing, it’s hard not to see various Atlanta neighborhoods, parks, and festivals peppered with what is now known as the rainbow umbrella. Ubiquitous in all its color and cheer, the umbrella that shades a friendly guy or gal and a cooler cart means one thing: King of Pops. This Atlantan quickly and easily fell in love with KoP and its many flavors. So how do I love them? Let me count the ways:

1. The Backstory

Everybody loves a good origin story, and KoP has one. CEO and co-founder Steven Carse and his two brothers have shared a love of paletas, Latin American ice pops, for years. And when Carse was laid off from his corporate job, he and brother Nick, a lawyer, set out to see if they could successfully make paletas a stateside business reality.

Because of insufficient funds for a brick and mortar establishment, Carse mentioned in a recent interview, selling pops from a portable cart was the next best option–the first setup point at the corner of North Highland Avenue and North Avenue in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood. Before long, KoP became king of the local food scene and has maintained its commitment to “provide an ecologically responsible, fresh, all-natural frozen treat in a fun neighborhood environment.” And the lawyer even left the courtroom to join the business full time.

2. The Ingredients + The Flavors

These handcrafted pops come in delicious, unexpected flavors that are either fruit- or milk-based: Arnold Palmer, Banana Puddin, Blueberry Lemongrass, Cookies and Cream, Honeydew Lime Zest, Kiwi Banana Honey, Tangerine Basil, Cookies and Milk, Chocolate Sea Salt. All are sweetened with either organic cane sugar or honey, and ingredients are always purchased locally.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Johnson via flickr.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Johnson via flickr.

3. Local Inspiration

KoP clearly loves to be enmeshed in the local food scene of Atlanta, pairing its own craftsmanship with that of others. Case and point: their special-edition coffee and doughnuts pop made with Octane Coffee and Sublime Doughnuts, two other Atlanta mainstays. Pair this with the inspiration of Southern foodways (Arnold Palmer and Banana Puddin, anyone?), and you’ve got a truly Atlantan pop.

4. Access

While KoP started with a single street-corner cart, business has burgeoned, allowing the umbrella to bloom across the city and the South, from parks and plazas to festivals (yes, even Bonnaroo), specially catered events, and wholesale placement in businesses big and small — including Whole Foods.

Photo courtesy of Rancho Cocoa via flickr.
Photo courtesy of Rancho Cocoa via flickr.

When the weather warms up and festival season kicks into gear, it’s easy to assume that KoP will be present. And when you make a weekend trip to your local farmer’s market. And when you go to the food truck park, or Atlantic Station, or the park. At a recent Atlanta Braves game, I scoured the crowd for the KoP guy, shouting “I need two!” (Raspberry Lime) when he walked past during the ninth inning (totally worth the wait). Would you believe me if I told you KoP will even cater your wedding?

5. The Walk-Up Window

One step closer to their brick and mortar dream, KoP now has a walk-up window in Inman Park, open most days until 8:00p.m. And if you happen to be in the neighborhood on a Tuesday night, see #6 for an added bonus…

6. KoP Yoga

Come spring, KoP begins hosting a free, come-one-come-all yoga class in the Historic Fourth Ward Skate Park on Tuesday evenings. Yoga enthusiasts who want a post-chaturanga pop can head to the walk-up window, just a block from the park.

7. Birthday Pops!

Once again demonstrating its generous spirit, when KoP celebrated its fifth birthday this year, it partnered with Atlanta-based MailChimp to offer free pops to all. This meant that yours truly, upon hearing the news, dashed out of her office and over to the cart set up in the Fairlie-Poplar district. Worth the sprint.

Photo courtesy of Foodie Buddha via flickr.
Photo courtesy of Foodie Buddha via flickr.

8. King Of Crops

A quickly-growing side project of the Carse brothers, King of Crops is the name of the farm purchased by the company in a rural suburb of the city. The farm features nurseries, greenhouses and farmlands that grow produce for sale and produce for the pops themselves, allowing KoP to remain committed to what’s quality, local and seasonal. And yes, if you visit the farm, you can get a pop.

9. Partnerships + Projects

Another side project of brother Nick is Perfect 10, a small-brand distribution company for artisanal goods, like the pops, but with a focus on only ten brands at a time, mostly in urban markets and small businesses. The company will deliver goods and “[is] determined to stay small to keep the connection between product and retailer strong” (The Local Palate). Current brands include KoP, Doux South organic pickles, and Banner Butter.

10. KoP Lunchbox

KoP is known for doing specialty boxes of pops — during Girl Scout cookie season, for Valentine’s Day, for Christmas. But their most recent specialty box, the KoP Lunchbox, is on pre-sale to benefit Quality Care for Children, a Georgia nonprofit that aims to ensure that young children receive consistent, quality childcare when not in the care of a parent or guardian. The $25 KoP Lunchbox features PB&J, Cereal Milk, Fruit Cup, and Leggo My Eggo flavors. Good taste for a good cause.

Photo courtesy of Foodie Buddha via flickr.
Photo courtesy of Foodie Buddha via flickr.

King of Pops can also be found in Southern cities like Athens, Charleston, Richmond, Savannah and Charlotte. And it’s easy to see why, from cart to food truck to farm to table, this locally owned and operated business is loved by all. Their persona and commitment to quality, community, and pizzazz makes the entire KoP experience a treat.

Story by Paige Sullivan. Featured image courtesy of JeniFoto via Shutterstock.

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Have a delicious cultural recipe to share? We want to know!



Paige Sullivan

Paige Sullivan is currently an MFA candidate in the creative writing program at Georgia State University, where she also works as a composition instructor and the poetry editor of New South, a literary journal. Her poetry appears or will soon appear in Qu, the American Literary Review, Mead, and others. In her spare time, she loves to write about foodways, animal ethics, creativity, and the city of Atlanta.

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