Roger Horowitz, co-founder and co-owner of Pleasant Pops exemplifies any farmer’s market vendors’ dream: farmer’s market vendor, moved up to food truck status, graduated to a (Adams Morgan) brick and mortar location and opened a second location downtown. After frequenting the AdMo location more often than my wallet liked and learning how Pleasant Pops came to be, I needed to know, how did they do it?
Howrowitz and long time friend from college, Bryan Sykora, came up with the idea for Pleasant Pops after discussing more ordinary, overdone ideas like a taco or cuban sandwich truck. Popsicles were simple and stood out at the Mt. Pleasant farmer’s market which heavily features fresh produce. (Yes, Pleasant Pops got its name because the concept was developed in Mt. Pleasant.)
How many popsicles do you make/sell a week?
RH: In peak popsicle season we’re at about 4,000 popsicles a week.
How did you raise the capital for a brick and mortar version of Pleasant Pops?
RH: We set up a campaign page on Kickstarter. We set our goal for $20,000 and actually earned $28,000 from the Kickstarter fundraiser. It ended up costing about $200,000 to get the whole operation open and running.
Why did you think a popsicle shop would thrive in DC?
RH: We are community oriented. We knew we needed to offer more than popsicles, so we wanted to create a coffee shop and space that was easy to hang out in. Since we’ve been open in Adams Morgan, we’ve garnered a really loyal following. I’d say more than 70 percent of our customers are regulars. That’s what we hoped to create, a place with “regulars”.
What was the top piece of feedback you were hearing from customers?
RH: Avocado toast. [Depending on who you are as a person, insert eye roll or praise emoji here]
How can a new product earn shelf space at your stores?
RH: I’ll typically know off the bat what will sell and what won’t, but I’ll always check out a sample! (Same Roger, same).
How often do you change your menu?
RH: Seasonally. I head up the menu creation, but it is really a collaborative effort with the staff. We create the menu based on our customer feedback and honestly, simplicity. Because we have a small kitchen, it is important that we keep our dishes simple, that can be prepared in a tight space with few ingredients. We bake all of our cookies, croissants and pastries in house and have a small oven to churn out breakfast items.
What do you think the DC food scene does well, or is missing?
RH: DC always has something new going on in the way of food. While that is great, and it suggests a growing food scene, I like homey, established spots. So, it’s one in the same really, DC is great at welcoming new businesses, but that makes it hard for older restaurants to keep up.
Where do you like to eat in DC?
RH: Florida Avenue Grill, So’s Your Mom, El Tamarindo and Vace’s. I like family run places that have stood the test of time.