When Andy Harp quit his full time job in the tech industry to sell his homemade popsicles out of a small portable stand on the sidewalk in Downtown Gadsden AL, he had more than a few skeptics.
Three years later, with over 20 storefront locations in over 4 different states, his company, Frios Gourmet Pops, has grown into one of the best frozen dessert companies in the country. And now, Ericka and Bart Hopkins are bringing his creative take on fresh, frozen treats to Downtown Huntsville.
“We’re from Gadsden, so our family lives there and they just kept talking about it,” said Ericka Hopkins when we sat down to talk about their new Frios store which will be joining the other shops at the Garage at Clinton Row in Downtown Huntsville this fall.
“Then it literally was like, one summer day we tried one of their popsicles and fell in love with it,” she said.
The parents of two young sons, William (8) and Casen (2), Ericka and Bart loved the fresh and healthy approach that the company took to making their popsicles.
“I like the fact that the ingredients are simple,” explained Ericka. “Our fruities are pretty much just the fruit, organic cane sugar (we don’t use any kind of refined sugars) and then citrus juice. So that’s it. It’s just those three ingredients, there isn’t any artificial flavors or dyes.”
But that’s not what sold Ericka and Bart on becoming a part of the Frios family she said, “When we met with the owner, he was so down to earth and he was so passionate about local business and local farms and he really stood behind his product, that’s what sold me.”
In fact, every popsicle the company produces utilizes only the freshest ingredients sourced from local Alabama farms such as: Talley’s Fruit Farm in Crossville AL, Working Cows Dairy in Slocomb, AL and Isom’s Orchard in Athens, AL just to name a few. “If it doesn’t grow in Alabama, we still make sure it passes through an Alabama farm before it gets to us,” Ericka explained.
Still handmade in Gadsden by their specially trained “Fruit Ninjas,” the company has over 80 different unique seasonal flavors including a wide variety of gluten free, dairy free and all natural selections and even employs their very own “Chef Diva” whose sole job it is to dream up new pops.
Seasonally based, their fruity pops include flavors such as, Avocado-Lime, Blueberry Lemonade, Muscadine and Strawberry Mango. The company also sells milk based “Creamies” featuring flavors such as Key Lime Pie, Banana Puddin’, and Cookies & Milk.
Ericka said, that she hasn’t met a flavor she didn’t like yet, but her two favorites are the Avocado Lime and Banana Puddin’.
“When you look at the Banana Puddin’ pop you can see the actual slices of banana and the whole vanilla wafers, it’s such a rich Banana Pudding flavor. The first time I had one I expected something that tasted more like an imitation of banana pudding, but it’s not, it’s full blown banana pudding on stick.”
And the Avocado Lime? Ericka admits that the green pop may look like the ugly duckling of the popsicle world, but for those willing to give it a try, she said she hasn’t had anyone not like it yet. “It’s more like a fresh green grape flavor, it’s creamy but there’s no dairy in it, it’s just avocados, lime juice and cane sugar.”
In addition to opening their store-front at The Garage At Clinton Row in Downtown Huntsville, Ericka and her husband Bart have also developed a program for local schools called “Frios Fridays” as a way to give back to their community. Each Friday, the pair drops off coolers of popsicles at local schools for them to sell. Then Ericka & Bart donate back .50 cents to the school for every popsicle sold. “Having two little boys, getting into schools was very important for us,” Ericka said.
And for those now wishing they could get their hands on one of Frios’ tasty treats sooner than when Ericka & Bart’s storefront opens up in Downtown Huntsville this fall, you’re in luck! The team currently has a kiosk set up in Parkway Place Mall! They also have a variety of portable cordless outdoor carts available for corporate, school, church events or weddings!
With all the new restaurants, shopping and retail coming to Downtown Huntsville at developments like The Garage At Clinton Row, The Avenue, 225 Holmes and City Centre, Frios is sure to become the perfect place to stop and grab a sweet treat.