By: Shawna Bray
It is summertime in Alabama, and the sticky, humid heat is engulfing. The absent breeze leaves the trees standing motionless. As the sun’s rays beat down, they absorb every bit of energy in the air.
Luckily, Steel City Pops has the solution to rejuvenate Birmingham.
Open since May of 2012, Steel City Pops has already made a lasting impression on the citizens of Birmingham. Inspired by a similar shop in Nashville called Las Paletas, the Watkins family wanted to show Birmingham the value of real Popsicles. They put together a business plan and have worked ever since to get their shop up and running. Their name, Steel City, represents Birmingham’s significance in the industrial age.
The owner, Jim Watkins, works hard to continuously come up with new Popsicle flavor for the frozen pops, which are $2.75 each. The store categorizes their pops into two groups—fruity and creamy. On the fruity side Steel City Pops has many flavors, from raspberry lemon to cucumber lime to guava. Creamy Popsicles flavors range from caramel to strawberry cream to avocado. Steel City Pops aims to bring original flavors to their customers. Their most popular flavors are strawberry, blood orange, coffee, chocolate and buttermilk.
“The creative process is actually the most fun part of the job and so it is always easy to come up with new
ideas. Sometimes the hardest part is finding the correct texture and taste that we desire,” Watkins said.
So what exactly goes into the process of finding and making a perfectly textured Popsicle? When you walk into the small but welcoming shop in Homewood, you can watch the frozen treats being made right in front of you with molds that came all the way from Brazil.
“We mix up the ingredients, then we put it in some machines that we have gotten from overseas that freeze them very quickly,” Watkins said. “Then, we remove them from molds and package them by hand.”
The process of mixing up the ingredients includes crushing real fruit and blending it together. Their featured raspberry lemon is filled with raspberry
seeds from the original fruit pieces, which helps give the Popsicles a refreshingly real taste. You would be hard pressed to find flavors as authentic and fresh as Steel City Pops in super markets.
Matt Collins, a student at the University of Alabama, described his first experience at Steel City Pops as “delicious,” and especially enjoyed the raspberry flavored Popsicle.
“It tasted very good, and the atmosphere was great,” Collins said.
Steel City Pops currently has two locations, Homewood and The Summit. Their pops can also be found at The Pantry in Crestline Village. The business is now preparing for their new location in Tuscaloosa, which will be coming soon to the Strip.
“These are stores that we own and we are making everything here and taking it there so we feel pretty good about [our move to Tuscaloosa],” Watkins said.
The owners of Steel City Pops also want to give back. They work with a charity called NeverThirst, which has the goal to provide clean water to people
in India and Africa by installing wells. They aid this goal by giving 100% of all their bottled water profits to the charity.
After just a year of business Steel City Pops has already donated enough proceeds to complete one well, and another one is currently being installed.
“Our next well project will be a very involved production well in Gulu, Uganda [to] provide clean drinking water, toilet facilities and irrigation for their agricultural needs,” Watkins said. “I always knew from before the company began that we would do something significant to give back,” Watkins stated. “I know the folks involved with Neverthirst and have complete trust in the way they run their charity.”