Freeze! Meet Eli Kaplan, Founder of Mom and Icepops
Posted On Jul 01, 2016
Love dessert but hate the guilt? Sidestep the whole scenario with beautiful, delish, and all-natural Popsicles by Mom and Icepops. Here, we chat up the sweet and refreshing man behind the brand, Eli Kaplan.
Now that we have passed the solstice, and it is delightfully boiling hot, it’s time to plan out our cool-downs. Therein lies the paradox: How do we keep our bodies lean and lovely in this season of elbows and knees, when the milkshakes and frosty cocktails start beckoning? Our answer this year is a refreshing, beautiful, and relatively healthy Popsicle from Mom and Icepops (momandicepops.com). Just a handful of simple and wholesome ingredients, minimal sugar, and clever flavor combos like strawberry-basil, peach-ginger, lychee-raspberry, and such make them our new go-to frozen treat of choice.
A labor of love from Brooklyn musician Eli Kaplan, not to mention his beautiful, supportive family (hence the name), Mom and Icepops are a New York farmer’s market favorite. They have become a favorite item in high-end catering situation (like Bloomberg corporate events) and are making their way into gourmet shops around and the Northeast. Now that a successful Kickstarter campaign earned them the loot for a quick-freezing machine, these purty pops are set to travel further afield, and an expanded presence in several new major U.S. cities is underway.
We caught up with Kaplan, who is a total delight, to talk frozen goodness, family bonding, and the nitty gritty of getting a small-batch gourmet empire off the ground.
NEW YOU: Eli, we love the product and the name. How did Mom and Icepops come to be?
ELI KAPLAN: Well I had been teaching in public schools, tutoring, and doing my music. I was walking along the High Line park in New York high with my mom, and everybody had these great popsicles in their hands. As soon as you see a popsicle, everyone seems to be happy… so we thought, Where are those? We found the vendor and bought them, and I said, “These are good, but I can do this, Mom. I can do it better.” That’s how the idea was born.
NY: And how did your mother react?
EK: Well, my mother always made my sister, Lisa, and me responsible for an element of making our meals. She has a love to food and enjoyed sharing it with us. As a result, I came to love to cook for people. She was like, “Let’s discuss things some more…” and we made Popsicles for friends’ birthday parties and barbecues. The response was awesome, and so we got into the flea markets and farmers markets of New York. Mom and I spent a summer perfecting our recipes and didn’t look back. That was about four years ago.
NY: It takes a lot of determination to become a purveyor of edible items. What did you experience with that process?
EK: The permits and licenses are really extensive, and I was very surprised by the extent of the red tape we had to go through. It makes sense, of course, because it’s good and you can’t just do it out of your house. Once that was squared away, the fun really began. It’s incredible how much people really enjoyed what we were doing, and how much they embraced what we were trying to bring to them. There’s a huge desire for healthy and creative, delicious desserts.
NY: Tell us about the Popsicles themselves.
EK: We insisted on doing it all locally and organically. With that in mind, we could really do any type of flavor, not just strawberry, cherry, and rhubarb. I love our grapefruit-Rosemary and peach-ginger pops. Interesting combos appeal to me.
NY: These have the extra plus of not being bad for you, too.
EK: Exactly. There is simplicity in the ingredients but we also use good fruit, so we don’t have to dress it up too much. Our watermelon is sweet as is so you can add mint and it’s an interesting take, but also using minimal ingredients. People are always remarking how fresh it tastes, and it really tastes like the fruit that’s in there. There’s nothing to hide. Which is good, because you can’t take yourself too seriously… It’s just a Popsicle.
NY: Now, you had a lot of friends and family pitch in throughout your growing process, right?
EK: So many people wanted to help us. They’d sit in and sell for us on weekends while my girlfriend and I would be at other markets doing the same thing. It was hardly like this when I was a musician solely. I encountered so many insecure artists who were never sure if they wanted to be on the same bill as me. Popsicles are much less threatening, apparently.
NY: So what’s exciting with the business right now?
EK: We have a pop-up shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn… We are collaborating with Brooklyn’s Esme restaurant, which is wonderful. We’re going to be vending at the New Museum, and we’re going to be in a lot more restaurants, too. We are working on product in collaboration with VelociTea to make tea-based pops, and we have boozy pops coming out with Duke’s Liquor Box. We are also getting many more wholesale accounts and presence in specialty grocery stores. Vending is fun, but it’s essentially branding, so we are very happy with this.
NY: You appeal to canines, too, right?
EK: Yes, we have Pupsicles for dogs. A lot of the people who come to the markets have their dogs, so we came up with frozen treats for them. Peanut butter, yogurt, and banana, as well as a watermelon-carrot. Of course, there is no sugar, and they are good for dogs.
NY: Many people dream of having a family business… How has it changed your family?
EK: It’s fun to have a family business. My family has always supported my sister and me with everything. They never wanted us both to be artists, per se, but they never stopped us from doing things that we like. I feel lucky to have the emotional support, and it’s very exciting to do all of this with them.
NY: Your father had a big contribution, too, right?
EK: My dad was the creative director of his own advertising agency, and was excited to contribute to the business, craft the logo and tagline, and shape every that way we present the business. We’re a close family. Every time my sister plays a concert at Lincoln Center with her band, Eighth Blackbird, we vend popsicles. [sidenote: Lisa and her band have won four Grammys.]
NY: What would you like people to know most about the brand?
EK: I hope they try them, and like them, of course. Beyond that, I guess I’d say: We are not first-to-market with gourmet popsicles, but we believe we are best-in-category. And this… It actually is possible to get a dessert that is satisfying to your sweet tooth, that is made with fresh ingredients and can truly be healthy for you.