These are only a handful of the creative flavors of gourmet ice pops offered at new Jacksonville retailer, The Hyppo. Occupying a cozy 1,200-square-foot space at Regency Centers' Brooklyn Station on Riverside, the shop held a grand opening celebration February 6 complete with complimentary popsicles for the first 100 people, free chocolate dips on pops all day, raffles every hour, live music, coffee demonstrations from a local roaster and beer samples from a local brewery.
I sat down with The Hyppo's owner, 29-year-old Stephen DiMare, to learn how he got into the ice pop business. DiMare grew up nearby in St. Augustine, Florida, and opened the first Hyppo (named for the street of its first location in St. Augustine, Hypolita Street) in 2010 after graduating from the University of Florida. While he says it's an incredibly fun job, he's quick to acknowledge that he couldn't have done it without the physical, emotional and financial support of his friends and family.
Owner Stephen DiMare at The Hyppo Jacksonville's grand opening celebration February 6 (photos by Caron Streibich)
Q: Gourmet popsicles — how did the idea come about?
A: In March 2010, I was on a flight back from Montana when the stranger sitting next to me first introduced the idea of popsicles. I explained the type of coffee shop I eventually wanted to run, and she offered that gourmet ice pops — in the Mexican style of fresh fruits and spices — would be a great addition for a coffee shop in a place that's as warm as Florida. The idea took deep root, and before long I had abandoned the idea of a coffee shop in favor of a purely ice pop shop. The first pops I made were in traditional home molds and fed to the guests at the hotel I worked at in Montana. After the ski season ended I returned to St. Augustine and convinced my friends and family to join me on the adventure of opening an ice pop store. It was crazy, especially in 2010, but with their help I was open for business by June of that same year.
Q: What differentiates your pops from the standard boxed varieties people can find at the grocery store?
A: The key difference with Hyppo pops is freshness. We use fresh fruit in our pops, chosen at peak ripeness for maximum flavor, creating an incredible flavor experience. We also use food types and flavor combinations uncommon in the ice pop genre, like sweet potatoes and cashews and hot peppers. Each flavor is delicately balanced — recipes are only guidelines when dealing with fresh ingredients — and then hand-poured into our pop molds.
Q: This is your eighth Hyppo location. Tell us how you landed on Jacksonville, and most importantly, Brooklyn Station on Riverside.
A: I've wanted a store in Jacksonville for a long time. The Hyppo is intimately connected to many people and businesses in the city, and we already had a decent fan base from those who knew us from our St. Augustine stores and Jacksonville events. While there are now many cool boroughs in Jacksonville, it seemed that Riverside was becoming the epicenter for a lot of the city's growing culture. During our search for a good spot we were told about an upcoming project, Brooklyn Station. The location was fantastic, our neighboring businesses would be a great fit, and we'd have all these nice new apartments to serve (neighboring 220 Riverside and The Brooklyn feature a combined 604 residential units.) It was an easy decision to make, and we're very happy to be a part of Brooklyn Station, and to finally have premises in Jacksonville.
Q: What pops are most popular? How often do flavors rotate and on average how many flavors are available at any given time?
A: Top sellers include strawberry basil, avocado coconut, watermelon hibiscus and pistachio rosewater. It's hard to pinpoint which is indeed the most popular because we constantly change our flavors. With more than 550 recipes in our bank, we have more motivation than just the seasonality of fruit to keep our combinations changing. Everybody seems to have a different favorite, and it's fun to keep things mixed up. The Jacksonville store has the largest selection of any of our stores, with typically no less than 50 flavors.
Q: For someone who has never experienced The Hyppo, how would you describe your mission?
A: We create experiences that bring people joy, primarily through creating the best ice pops in the world with the best ingredients in the world, all while having fun.
Q: How do you describe the décor?
A: It's mostly a modern take on rustic and eclectic. We love wood in all forms and building character into our spaces. We also love our wall murals, which are designed by local artists and are different for every store.
Q: Anything fun on The Hyppo's horizon?
A: Jacksonville will help us pilot some upcoming initiatives including aguas frescas (fruits, flowers or seeds combined with sugar and water to make a light non-alcoholic beverage) on tap, and the ‘Suit & Tie' pop treatment. I don't want to over-promise as we work out specifics, but essentially the ‘Suit & Tie' involves enrobing your chosen pop in rich chocolate before topping it with any of a variety of exquisite toppings (think toasted coconut, crushed pistachios, marshmallows, graham crackers, dried blueberries). And among the aguas frescas we plan to have on tap are classics like sweet hibiscus tea and horchata.