July 23, 2020
In 2010, Stephen DiMare was a recent graduate of the University of Florida. It was the tail end of the Great Recession, and the job market looked bleak. So DiMare was saving money to create his own job. He planned to open a coffee shop.
But a chance encounter with a stranger gave DiMare the idea for what Floridians now know as The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops.
“I happened to be sitting next to a stranger on a flight one day and was telling her about all my coffee shop plans,” DiMare recalls. The woman encouraged DiMare to include ice pops in the store to help customers beat the Florida heat. DiMare was skeptical.
“Popsicles are for kids,” he told her.
The passenger urged him to use fresh fruits, herbs and spices, as commonly found in Mexican-style paletas.
“By the end of the flight, this multi-year plan I’d had for my coffee shop morphed into a plan for a popsicle store,” DiMare says.
With no experience in making paletas, DiMare did some research online and then dove into his new business idea.
“I love trial-and-error,” DiMare says. “Everyone around me was a guinea pig back then.”
The “errors” included flavors like barbecue sweet potato (“It was terrible,” he says) and pineapple cream (“It tasted like you put a penny in your mouth”). DiMare eventually mastered enough flavors to open an ice pop stand in his hometown of St. Augustine, using his life savings plus some money from his parents.
Today, The Hyppo empire includes eight stores across Florida and is also available at many Publix supermarkets. (DiMare also has an ice cream business and yes, a coffee shop.) Among the hundreds of rotating ice pop flavors, DiMare says the most popular are strawberry basil and blueberry cheesecake. DiMare’s favorite? Pineapple cilantro. “It’s so refreshing,” he says. To make your own refreshing ice pops at home, DiMare suggests combining flavors in a cup to predict whether they’ll blend well as an ice pop. Mash together the fruits and other ingredients, and hold the cup up to your nose. “If it smells good as a combined scent, then it’s probably going to taste good,” DiMare says. “And if it smells weird, or you can’t get the scents to blend together—they always smell distinct—then those things might not be best together.” And if you’re over 21, don’t be afraid to add wine or spirits. “Adding in a little bit of alcohol will help improve the texture of your pop. It’ll make it a little less icey, a little bit softer,” he says. But, he cautions, beer will dilute the flavor. So whatever happened to the woman on the airplane? Years ago, DiMare sent her a message on Linkedin to tell her that he’d started The Hyppo. She wished him good luck.
Explore The Zest
Host: Robin Sussingham
Producer: Dalia Colón & Robin Sussingham
Photo Credits: Dalia Colón