When it came to Popsicles, co-workers Ky Kanaman and Marshall Stula didn’t have the same childhood experiences.
For Stula, they were those cheap, artificially flavored and sugary summer treats that you got at an ice cream truck.
But Kanaman’s aunt opened one of the first artisan ice pop shops in Texas and soon competitors had saturated the market. Her ice pops were so rich and scrumptious he served them at his wedding reception and kept them in the freezer as special treats for family and friends.
So when Kanaman suggested they open a gourmet ice pop shop in Johnson County, Stula’s response wasn’t so enthusiastic.
“I thought he was crazy,” Stula said with a laugh. “You can get a pack of 12 in the grocery store for $5.”
But then the friends flew to Dallas for a weekend, hitting about a half-dozen of the shops a day and consuming as many ice pops. Stula was sold after the first bite.
The artisan ice pops are all-natural treats made with fresh ingredients — no fillers, no water — and use organic agave nectar as sweetener. There’s fresh fruit for the fruit ice bars, cream for such flavors as chocolate and vanilla bean.
They came home on a Sunday, got their wives on board with their new business idea and gave their notices on Monday.
“We had really good jobs,” Kanaman said. “But we wanted to do something for ourselves.”
Where Stula is analytical and thoughtful, Kanaman said he is “very let’s do this,” so they complement each other as business partners.
They ordered the equipment, took food safety courses and then began working on recipes — taste testing more than 100 to get down to their final 17 but still coming up with seasonal flavors.
Then they went to the closest and biggest area shopping center, Oak Park Mall, and pitched their idea for KC Pop Co., a few ice pops in hand for mall officials to sample.
Oak Park Mall was so sold, and fit them into a prime space at the bottom level entrance to the Nordstrom wing.
The pops sell for $3.50 a piece and KC Pop will provide an insulated take-home bag for orders of six or more. Bring the bag back and get one free gourmet ice pop.
Flavors include Greek yogurt parfait with berries, granola and honey; key lime with the pie crust running down the middle; kiwi strawberry; Cookies & Cream; and other flavors that will rotate, as well as seasonal ones such as apple cider or pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust and whipped cream.
Now the hurdle is to keep getting potential customers to try them and come on board, just like Stula and Oak Park Mall officials did.
“You just have to try it. It’s going to change your opinion on what a Popsicle is,” Kanaman said.
In May, they hope to open a flagship store that will let customers see the production line behind windows. They also have a mobile cart stocking 500 ice pops that they take to events, festivals and parties.
And if starting a new, untried concept in the metro wasn’t enough on his plate, Kanaman, a 25-year-old Baldwin City triathlete, recently donated a kidney — to a stranger.
“It definitely has come with its challenges and been a fast-pace couple of months,” Kanaman said. “I did think that maybe I should push this off until next year. I was building a kiosk. But when they called to tell me there was a match and three people involved, there was never any, ‘Well, we are trying to open a business.’ We’ll do it and figure out the rest.”