It’s hard to miss the bright white cart parked next to the farmers at Findlay Market. The whimsical stand sprinkled with bright green circles looks like it rolled out of an Etsy shop. Streetpops mixes modern design with vintage style, selling gourmet popsicles made from scratch, using the freshest ingredients possible. Owner Sara Bornick recently expanded business from box-cart vendor to full storefront to accommodate her booming business. She still maintains her shop’s presence at local farmers’ markets, but her business now has a permanent home in Over-the-Rhine on Main Street.
The fabrication of this small-batch popsicle business grew from a culmination of inspirations and a slight nudge from a sibling. As an ex-culinary student from the Midwest Culinary Institute and self-described foodie, Bornick loved the food scene and wanted to be part of Cincinnati’s growing foodie community. Unfortunately, her job as a graphic designer wasn’t getting her there, so she continued compiling recipes for her future ice cream shop.
Inspired by the handcrafted desserts from Columbus-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Bornick was fascinated by such an approach to artisanal food. She lived a few blocks from the North Market in Columbus when Jeni was just starting her empire. When Bornick moved back to Cincinnati, she looked into opening up her own shop. To her disappointment, the area was saturated and the competition discouraged Bornick from joining the club.
Luckily for Cincinnati, she didn’t stop dreaming. During a trip to North Carolina to visit her brother, her curiosity ignited again while eating gourmet popsicles at a place called Locopops. Without missing a beat, her brother encouraged her to go for it.
“You should just transfer all of your ice cream recipes into popsicle recipes,” he said.
Bornick returned home in January 2011, then spent the next four months researching what she needed to start up a pop business.
“I’m just going to make some popsicles and see how it goes,” Bornick says about her decision to start Streetpops.
By May, Streetpops was open to the public. It hit the ground running last year during its premier summer at Findlay Market and hasn’t stopped growing. She used to work out of a friend’s commercial kitchen. After one summer, she decided she needed to start looking for her own kitchen. She loved the look and size of Over-the-Rhine’s Fork Heart Knife restaurant. She thought it had the perfect size kitchen for her work, so when the space became available and the price was right, she seized the opportunity.
Bornick loves what she does and it shows. For now, she is the only one in the kitchen preparing popsicles for the markets, events and the shop. She works with a few pieces of equipment like an induction burner, blender and a large freezer.
More than anything else, however, the ingredients make the popsicles stand out.
“I just want to use the best products out there,” Bornick says.
Instead of using a mélange of ingredients, she uses a select few to showcase their flavors. Most of her produce comes from farmers, capitalizing on what’s in season, creating combinations like Rhubarb Cardamom and Beet Blood Orange. All of the recipes start from scratch so that she can maintain quality control. Her one prep table is small, but she explains it’s because she works with mostly fresh ingredients so she needs to use them as quickly as possible. Along with fresh fruits, Bornick also buys all of her milk products from the local dairy darling, Snowville Creamery.
“I was born in Wisconsin so I know what good dairy tastes like,” she says.
Bornick isn’t forecasting plans for her business in the winter, although she is tossing some ideas around. For now, the summer events and new customers are her main focus. A walking street cart is in the works for the downtown area, but city regulations might put that idea on the back burner.
With summer looming, Bornick is preparing her business for the masses. She’s hired more people to help with events and the farmers’ markets. She also does catering for weddings and corporate events. Sometimes the parties stick to her recipes, and other times they make suggestions, like Honey Bourbon Vanilla, which turned out to be a favorite.
“I’m always up for a challenge,” she said.
With all of the different flavors to satisfy any sweet tooth, it’ll be hard not to try every last one of these guilt-free popsicles under the oppressive summer heat.
STREETPOPS are sold at Findlay Market and various other farmers’ markets and events, as well as the shop at 1437 Main St., Over-the-Rhine.