When I think back to our first summer in Durham, my memories primarily center around bare feet on blazing pavement, an increasingly uncomfortable pregnancy belly, and endlessly chasing after my energetic toddler. My little sister would swoop in periodically to save the day by whisking Povi off to magical places – mostly just her favorite Durham pop shop, Locopops! Can any child resist delicious ice cream? Not mine. At the time, I was so relieved to just have some downtime with no toddler, I didn’t investigate the source of all those shared giggles and temporary tattoos. I only knew my son’s eyes would get big with enthusiasm and – despite being a delayed speaker – somehow LOCOPOPS was a word he could manage just fine. For the next year and a half, my son continued to sport a temporary tattoo somewhere on him at all times, courtesy of “Teta Tina” and LocoPops. It was kind of adorable. Needless to say, once Aidas was born, I finally made my way to this lovely little shop to discover a true local gem. While temperatures these days might be hovering only slightly above freezing, I’ve still found myself craving LocoPops as I dream of another hot summer. What better place to feature on my blog for the first of my “Local Durham” series? Ready for a tour of your new favorite dessert cafe? Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post for some fun questions the owner of LocoPops was kind enough to answer for me!
I popped into the shop just after they opened for the day on a cold December afternoon, which is why you’ll notice holiday embellishments in the photographs. Chilly weather is no reason not to enjoy a cold treat! Especially as a pre-lunch pick me up after a semi-focused workout at the Lakewood YMCA just down the road.
Povi couldn’t believe his luck – dessert BEFORE lunch? Unheard of. He scampered all over the shop as I took photographs. I hadn’t realized before that LocoPops also rents out a party room – and you can bring your own beer and wine! Pretty sure an ice cream themed birthday party just found its way into our future.
How cute are these brightly colored bar stools next to the wooden bar with all the surrounding dessert-themed art work and posters? Pleasepleaseplease someone request an engagement session here! Wouldn’t that be adorable?
Summer (what a perfect name for a sweet shop owner!) sweetly answered some burning questions I had for her about how Locopop came into being and a bit more about her.
How did Locopops begin? LocoPops is the product of desperation, perspiration, getting lost and finding home. In 2004, I was working in software development in Nashville and slowly going crazy. Nothing against Corporate America but it really was a case of square peg vs. a round hole and I couldn’t seem to shave enough corners off of myself to fit. One weekend, when a friend came to visit and commiserate with my lack of direction, we visited Las Paletas (owned by the fabulous Paz sisters, Irma and Norma – long may they rule!) on what happened to be the first pretty Saturday that spring. We sat on the curb and enjoyed our pops and I relaxed for the first time in months. My friend said, jokingly, ‘Well, if you’re looking for a new gig, I’ll bet you can learn to make these.” It was one of several such moments where the right thing got asked or said at the exact time I happened to be really listening. That was a Saturday. On Monday, I went into work and gave notice. Then I spent two months trying to find someone in Mexico to teach me the art and craftsmanship I would need to make truly great pops. And I ended up apprenticing with a lovely woman in Tlazazalca, a town in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán. After completing my training in Mexico, the question became where to open. I didn’t want to compete with the ladies Paz – I was trying to follow in their footsteps! So while traveling and checking out options, I got lost on the way from Atlanta to NJ and ended up having to stop for gas in Durham. And I fell in love with this place: its great bones and its great folks. So, without knowing anyone here, I decided to try it. It seemed like home, right from the start. Over the years, I’ve had a business partner, Connie Semans, who helped grow the business from its fledgling status onto stronger footing. I’ve also had two amazing kitchen managers (Leila Wolfrum and Tracy Stevens), each of whom have contributed in their own way to the business’ success and longevity. I’m so grateful to all of them. And grateful to you all, our customers, the reason we keep on going. Without your support, none of this would’ve been mattered. I’d only add that clearly the best decisions are made when the heart speaks as opposed to detailed demographics studies!
Where did the name come from? It comes from another just-right question: “What’d your parents think when you quit your job, sold your house, took your dogs and went to Mexico to learn how to make pops? My answer was: “They’d thought I’d lost my mind. They thought I’d gone loco!” Sometimes the answer really is just right there waiting for you!
What was your biggest challenge in opening your own store? Overcoming fear of failure. Desperation is very helpful in that regard!
Which part of the business do you find the most fun? Listening to customers enjoy themselves! For the first year, most of my own compensation ‘package’ consisted of listening to folks oooh and aaah. There were so few ‘atta boys’ in my prior career that others’ sincere pleasure at something I’d done was a real balm for my soul.
Be sure to go check out LocoPops at its 2618 Hillsborough Road location and let me know your favorite pop flavor! This summer I’m determined to try them all. If you find yourself at Duke Gardens this summer, you can also *hurray!!!* purchase locopops at their Terrace Cafe. If you want to be on top of any fun news, events, or specials, go follow Locopops on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.