Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Monday, March 9, 2015

Pops and Rockets: gourmet tour de force fresh flavors frozen on a stick

There are businesses. And then there are really cool fun businesses. Nick Villaume and Robbie Austin created a product and a brand that defines the latter. They produce and sell frozen gourmet confections on a stick and call their venture Pops and Rockets.

Robbie on left, Nick on right

They started this business less than a year ago, initially making the pops in their home kitchens, where they were able to make around 200 pops a day. Because they've experienced such a positive response to their product, they now lease commercial kitchen space and they recently purchased new equipment that allows them to make 200 pops an hour.

Back in Blackberry (a blackberry coconut flavor) in the freezer awaiting packaging.

Every company needs a hook or a theme that sets it apart from other similar businesses. For Pops and Rockets, it's the 1980s music culture. Their pop names relate to bands, songs, and hip movies from the era of big hair and glam rock. The name Pops and Rockets is derived from the 1980s alternative rock band Love and Rockets.

Villaume is a local businessman. He helps in production and focuses on marketing the pops and social media. Austin is a Lake Charles artist; the creative outlet is what keeps the business exciting and fresh for him. He is primarily responsible for creating new innovative flavors and assigning them clever names. To date, they have produced close to forty unique flavors. Some of their newest concoctions are Pepper in Pink (strawberry and cracked black peppercorn) and Blister in the Sun (pineapple/ginger with raspberry). Earlier this year for Mardi Gras, they created Alive and King Cake (cream cheese and cinnamon). One of my personal favorites is Sledge Honey (salted peanut butter and honey).

Despite leading busy lives with families and other jobs, these guys get around town! You can find them and their pop cart every Tuesday at the Cash and Carry Farmers Market on the corner of Enterprise and Broad St., 4-6 p.m., and most Saturdays at their "pop lab" on Pujo St. by Botsky's Hot Dog shop, 12-2 p.m. They also attend various event and festivals around town. Look for them at Live at the Lakefront this Friday evening at the Civic Center outdoor amphitheater (Arcade Theater).

Villaume and Austin have big ideas for the future of Pops and Rockets. They intend to continue their marketing plans, which include customer loyalty cards, two for one specials, and BOGO passcodes exclusive to their email followers. In the near future, they’d like to hawk their pops from umbrella-topped street vendors throughout the city, with trailers pulled by bicycles. With increased production capability, they would like to sell their pops from local stores and restaurants. Eventually, they would love to open a pop shop next to the pop lab in the nether regions of the Historic Calcasieu Marine Bank Building. Austin envisions a catchy Pops and Rockets sign on the exterior, a fun mural on the wall of the hallway leading to the shop, an anticipation as you walk down the hall, hear the music and see the bright colors. You just know you’re about to experience some magic.

Some may wonder, what’s the big deal? It’s flavored ice on a stick. (And don't call them popsicles -- that's a trademarked word.) It’s nothing new. But it is Pops and Rockets creative flair, the ‘80s music, the unique flavor combinations and names that set them apart. Austin admits it’s not a huge money maker, but he has his dreams. “The Pops and Rockets Musical Tour where we resurrect ‘80s bands – that is on the retirement agenda,” he says, tongue in cheek. “But we’re both comfortable one step at a time. It’s the energy that keeps it fresh.”

If you've already discovered Pops and Rockets, what is your favorite flavor?

For more information, see their website, or find them on Facebook.

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