Steel City Pops
By Caroline Mendes
Jonathan Veazey, the manager of Steel City Pops, lives and breathes popsicles.
“Instead of a cup a coffee I usually eat a coffee pop which has caffeine in it as my late afternoon pick-me-up,” he said.
He has always dreamed of being Dallas’ go-to popsicle man; It seems he’s well on his way.
With summer temperatures slowly rising, Steel City Pops already has people and puppies waiting in a line out the door.
Steel City’s popsicles are modeled after traditional Latin American paletas, but the shop has revamped the childhood favorite into a gourmet dessert that anyone can enjoy. Have allergies? Can’t eat dairy? Gluten free? They have pops for that.
In general, the pops are divided into two categories, the fruity and the creamy.
For the fruit lovers, you’ll find real fruit-based popsicles that will almost make you long for those scorching summer days, like raspberry-lemon, pineapple, mango, and hibiscus.
For those who like rich flavors, the creamy popsicles include coffee, buttermilk, chocolate, and more. If that isn’t enough, you can get one with an actual cookie baked inside. Needless to say, I picked the one with the cookie.
Eavesdropping on the group of girls in front of me, I learned there was a popular favorite, the vanilla chocolate chip. Coming from a strenuous Crossfit workout, the girls were craving something cold. Pops that are low calorie, fresh, and made with whole ingredients were exactly what they had in mind.
“I love how I don’t feel guilty after eating one; they’re natural and healthy,” said loyal customer Katherine Arsenault.
With so many unique flavors, she shared it’s impossible to try to narrow it down to just one favorite flavor.
“I come once a week to get a box of chocolate, they’re the absolute best. The manager and team greet me every time and know I’m here for the usual,” said Arsenault.
As I stood in line waiting for my popsicle, I couldn’t help but glance over at the large mural painted along the large wall of the store.
“The team and I painted it ourselves the week before opening. The dark gray is the Dallas skyline and the light gray is Alabama’s. We’ll always remember where we started,” said Veazey.
The frozen pops shop started in Homewood, Alabama in 2012, and opened its first Dallas store on May 15, 2014. Steel City Pops’ founder Jim Watkins knew Veazey was the man to take his store to Dallas. Veazey had already helped the owner open three stores in Birmingham, Alabama.
Taking a gamble, Veazey and his wife moved from Alabama to Dallas to open the store.
“Anytime you are involved in a start-up it’s pretty scary, but we really felt like it was going to be a success and a fun adventure,” said Veazey. “There’s also a great feeling that stems from being so successful from doing something so simple.”
However, the move to Dallas wasn’t such a smooth ride at first.
“Our walk-in freezer that holds hundreds of pops went out the very first week we opened. Thankfully our vending carts we use to sell pops outdoors was plugged in and frozen so we were able to transfer them there to keep them frozen,” said Veazey.
Box by box and pop by pop, the team of workers transferred each item to the smaller freezers. Employee Kesli Houlette shared how Veazey encouraged his team and didn’t break a sweat through the whole process.
“Jonathan is a wonderful boss. He’s very encouraging and a good teacher. He also makes our job fun by making quick challenges among the employees to see who can make the most stick holders in the quickest time,” said Houlette. “There were several times this fall when I was working in the kitchen in the morning and Jonathan would come in singing different songs.”
Houlette shared that Veazey makes sure everyone on the team has at least one pop a day.
“It’s pretty great getting to try all the different pops and not get in trouble for it,” said Houlette.
As I sat on the stools behind the glass windows separating me from the pops, I watched the team make their fresh batch of pops for the day.
“Little kids can watch us cut the strawberries and blueberries they’re about to eat. I think it’s important they can see how what they’re eating is being made,” said Veazey.
The team chops everything from strawberries to chocolate into small pieces, then blends them into liquid form. Placing the mixtures into stainless steel molds, Houlette adds sticks for the pop handles. Once in place, the trays of 25 pops are put in a deep freezer and after 25 minutes, the pops are frozen.
While waiting, the team spends their time having some fun with banjo playing, dancing, and joking around. Once ready, they submerge the pops into a hot bath of water that helps the pops separate from the molds. They are then able to wiggle out the pops and run them through the flow wrapper. The pops are then ready to go and put in a freezer until ordered.
The pop store is designed so customers can watch the pops being made everyday. With oldies playing throughout the industrial designed store, Steel City Pops makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Veazey shared the most important goal for Steel City Pops: a close community and sense of giving back. For example, the store has manufactured its own water product called Provid water. Anytime someone buys a bottle, the store donates 100 percent of profits to help build clean water wells in Africa and India.
“That’s my favorite part of my job: seeing people get excited as I hand them over their fresh pop but also knowing that we’re making a difference beyond the store,” said Veazey.
By Shelly Knutson
At 9:30 a.m. on a Thursday, Weezer and The Black Keys permeated the room stemming from a vintage music box.
On the upholstered mustard yellow couch sat two teenagers taking “selfies” and uploading the photos to Instagram.
On the ceiling, a miniature disco ball revolved in circles, illuminating a custom painting of Bob Marley blowing smoke rings shaped like frosted donuts.
This was not your average donut shop.
With donuts like the Evil Elvis ranked top in America and an atmosphere that rivals your go-to neighborhood watering hole, this little Dallas donut shop has received national attention.
Hypnotic’s place in the White Rock community as a social hub is clear. Family Christmas cards, congratulatory letters celebrating one and two years of business, and thank you notes from the surrounding areas’ schools, sports teams and charities adorn the walls. Customers walk in and are greeted by name.
“I’ve talked to people from all over: California, New York. One time a man came all the way from the Bahamas and visited us two days in one week.” said Lexi Noles, who’s been working the front counter for two years.
Now how exactly did a man who spent the past 18 years in corporate America learn everything necessary to build a homegrown donut shop into a vacation destination hotspot?
After deciding he couldn’t live with the regret of never attempting to make his dream reality, St. Peter headed down to his local donut shop and simply asked the owner to teach him.
“Well, technically I asked his son since the old man didn’t speak English,” St. Peter added.
With no words exchanged, the old man would knead dough and mix up icings while St. Peter watched diligently, taking notes and recording video.
It was a year-and-a-half process consisting of reviewing video and trial and error before St. Peter perfected his donut concept: Hypnotic.
St. Peter maintains Hypnotic’s grassroots image by only opening up shop in communities where he’s willing to invest as much time as he expects from his customers.
“We never expect people to just come. We have to give back and provide great customer service,” said St. Peter.
When asked what donut he’d be and why, St. Peter mentioned an Old Fashioned because they taste good and, well, he’s a bit old fashioned.
Take his stance on customer service: “Donuts make people happy. We try to make people happy. But if they come in here with a crappy attitude, we’ll serve that crappy attitude right back,” St. Peter said.
This may seem a bit out there for some. But for “Hyppies,” the donut shop’s avid fans, the candid originality is charming.
Now, after opening up a second location in Denton soon after the first, Hypnotic Donuts’ owner James St. Peter is ready for the next adventure— a concept he isn’t willing to share until its opening in September.
As rumors swilled about the next project St. Peter is working on, (not donuts, in case you were wondering), his customers voiced support.
“I’ll be following Hypnotic any which way they go,” attested Hyppie Julia McQuade.
Only giving away the location, which will be walking distance from the Garland storefront, St. Peter assured “it will be kickass.”