In 2010, Nick Carse (J.D. ’08) was a prosecutor in Gwinnett County. Today, he and his brothers run King of Pops, a gourmet ice pop operation and Atlanta institution
How did King of Pops get started?
It’s a pretty cool story actually. It started as a daydream or rather a beach-at-night-in-Mexico dream, but wasn’t realized for years later. My older brother, Ashley, was doing dissertation research in Panama so Steven — my younger brother and business partner — and I went to visit in the summer of 2005. We traveled from Panama up through Mexico eating all kinds of delicious frozen treats along the way — it’s hot!
In Mexico we discovered the paleta which is a fresher version of a popsicle and available everywhere. We ate a ton of them and talked about starting our own Mexican paleta pushcart business as it would fit in with the burgeoning street food scene. When we got back to Atlanta we forgot about it. I was in law school at Georgia State and Steven was working for AIG. He got laid off in 2009 during the financial craziness and moved onto my couch. He interviewed some, but somehow we talked him into spending his meager life savings to buy a paleta freezer. We plugged it in and started making pops. We worked on flavors at night — I was a prosecutor in Gwinnett County at the time — and weekends and gave the pops to friends who were teachers or office workers or whatever. We voted on the name, painted a mural on a wall at Buddy’s gas station in Poncey Highland and decided that April 1, 2010 was going to be the day that it all started.
When did you know that you could quit your day job and make popsicles?
Steven started off solo full time for the first couple of months while I was prosecuting. I was helping nights and weekends but still had a full time job. I quit my job only about two months in and haven’t looked back. We didn’t get paid the first year but survived off of pop mistakes. I knew it was something I wanted to do from the beginning but, actually, quitting was tough, I did it when we couldn’t keep up with demand. Had to go full time and have been for four years now.
What are some of your best, and worst, recipes?
Crowd faves are chocolate sea salt, raspberry lime, banana puddin’ and whatever “special” pops we have going on. My favorite is probably blackberry ginger lemonade or Mexican chocolate — cinnamon, cayenne and vanilla. All of the recipes are good for someone, just not everyone. We did a really horrible coconut curry and a really bad fig and goat cheese, those never saw the light of day. All the others are winners in their own way, all my children…
How many gourmet popsicles have you sold to date? And in what cities can we find a King of Pops cart?
We’ve sold a lot, over a million all in. King of Pops operates carts in Atlanta, Charleston S.C., Richmond, Va., Charlotte, N.C., Chattanooga, Tenn., Athens, Ga. and starting in Greenville, S.C. and Savannah, Ga. this year. In addition, we do big festivals from New York City to Arkansas; you never know where we’ll pop up. Ha!
What are some flavors we can look forward to this summer?
Always changing but we just came up with a box of pretty fab Girl Scout cookie pops with Thin Mint, Samoa, Do-si-do and Trefoil. Check it out at atlanta.kingofpops.net/shop. We also just had a our semi-annual kitchen summit and got to play with a lot of great stuff like black sesame, orange blossom and honey, vegan chocolate coconut, lemon poppy, et cetera.
What’s on the horizon for King of Pops?
This year we’re looking forward to starting our new cities and a starting a farm. We plan to use the farm to grow as much of our own produce and ingredients as we can including berries, herbs, melons, honey, et cetera. We will also be composting all of our fruit waste and cardboard at the farm, and adding it to the soil so our process will be as closed and controlled as possible. We believe in making the best possible product with the most local ingredients we can while being good stewards of our community.