Pam Raphael of AZ Pops knew that moving from Atlanta to Phoenix was the right move for her family business.
“We have a very, very long popsicle season in the desert,” says Raphael, owner of the Phoenix popsicle emporium with nearly 50 rotating flavors made with all-natural ingredients. Or as Raphael, a former preschool director, likes to say: “Popsicles made with real food.”
Raphael was living in Atlanta with her husband, Butch, and their three children when she began making popsicles. Her original creations were born out of necessity, not a business plan. They were healthy treats to quell but not quash her kids’ hunger before dinner.
“I’d get home from work with the kids and they would be starving,” she says. “Popsicles seemed to take the edge off until dinner was ready.”
Soon her husband, a classically trained chef and now executive chef at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, joined Raphael in making her frozen pops. He’s responsible for the traditional fruit flavors along with the unexpected: rosemary butter pecan, summer melon tarragon, coconut saffron, Vietnamese coffee, hibiscus ginger, grapefruit rose and cardamom chocolate.
It was when the couple decided to move to Phoenix to be closer to family that their business morphed from idea to reality. In 2011, the couple rented a commercial kitchen and began selling their popsicles at local farmers markets.
Today, they make and sell popsicles out of their store in central Phoenix, at Old Town Farmers Market in Scottsdale and Uptown, Roadrunner and Ahwatukee farmers markets in Phoenix.
All three of their children — Ayden, 18; Shayna, 16; and Ezra, 12 — help in the store and at the markets. They also double as a focus group, giving a thumbs up or down to new concoctions.
“We give allowances up to (age) 12, then they have to work for their money,” Raphael says.
Although best known as a kid treat, popsicles appeal to adults as well, reminding them of what being a kid was all about: having fun.
Lynn Moreno, a Scottsdale hospital administrator, is a regular AZ Pops customer, bringing her two nieces weekly to Old Town for a popsicle. She’s a sucker for the avocado pops, considering them guilt-free treats.
“I love that they are made with healthy ingredients, and really hit the spot on a hot day,” she says.
Like at AZ Pops, one of the benefits of making popsicles at home is being able to customize the flavors to fit the preferences of family members. From scratch, popsicles can be vegan, dairy-free or protein rich. And kids as young as 5 can help make their own. Making popsicles can break up the monotony of long, hot summer days. Summer birthday party? Popsicle-making can be a party activity or treat.
Raphael recommends following her rule of thumb: use the best ingredients available, preferably those grown locally and in season. She also encourages home cooks to experiment with flavors not typically considered kid friendly.
“We let kids in the store taste before they buy, and many surprise their parents by liking flavors they might not eat on a plate,” she says.
AZ Pops is located at 5050 N. Seventh St. in Phoenix. Find an updated list of other locations where you can buy the frozen treats at azpops.com
3 recipes from AZ Pops
Sugarless Mango Orange
- 1 cup mango, washed and cut
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 2 cups orange juice
- 1 very ripe banana, broken into pieces
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Carefully pour into mold. Insert sticks at least halfway into the popsicle. Place in freezer. Makes about 8 popsicles.
Peach & Strawberry Splits
- 2 ripe peaches, peeled, pits removed and cut into pieces (can substitute kiwi or mango)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 pint strawberries, washed well
- 1/4 cup sugar or honey, divided
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
Blend peaches, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and about 1/8 cup sugar or honey, adjusting for taste. Add 1/4 cup water slowly until smoothly blended. If necessary, add a bit more water. Pour into a bowl and set aside. Next, blend strawberries, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and remaining sugar or honey to taste. Slowly add 1/4 cup water (or a bit more if needed) to turn mixture into a smooth blend. Place in refrigerator.
Pour peach mixture halfway into all molds. Place in freezer. When completely frozen, add strawberry mixture to fill the mold. Insert sticks at least halfway into the popsicle and place in freezer. Makes about 8 popsicles.
- 1 cup mixed or single berries, washed well
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups water, divided
- 1/2 cup lemon juice or less, adjusted for taste
Combine sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir until all sugar melts. Set aside sugar-water mixture to cool. Blend 2/3 cup berries in a blender with 2 cups water and 1 cup melted sugar. Cut remaining 1/3 cup berries into small pieces and place equal amounts into each popsicle mold. Pour blended mixture into molds and insert sticks at least halfway into the popsicle. Place in freezer. Makes about 8 popsicles.