Photo by Keith McCoy.
1212 Steel City Pops
Steel City Pops owner Jim Watkins replaced summer pops with flavors like Cranberry-Orange and Pumpkin.
Summer provided just the right temperatures for a business like Steel City Pops to thrive.
Located near Homewood Park, the shop rode the heat wave to popularity, providing the perfect frozen treat to cool down after a day in the sun. But what is happening now that the dog days of summer are behind us?
In its transition to fall, Steel City Pops proved that a little winter wind couldn’t ruin its spirits. With new flavors and a fresh approach, owner Jim Watkins is confident his summer business can become a year-round success. The first major change was seen in the flavors.
“Anything that totally felt like summer was off the menu,” Watkins said.
Watermelon, blackberry, pineapple jalapeño – all gone. Even blood orange, one of the shop’s best sellers, was removed from the menu. Some were cut because their ingredients were no longer in season, but others, Watkins said, were removed to pave the way for new flavors to be added.
“There are so many flavors that are seasonal. You don’t sell fruity things in the fall. You sell creamy and spicy things. At Christmas, you sell things that are minty and white chocolate-y,” he said.
And with fall flavors like corn, carrot and maple bacon bourbon, Watkins and his staff have proven they are not afraid to try new things. The idea of winter flavors opens up a door of endless possibilities – gingerbread, eggnog, fig, oh my.
“We want our customers to realize that we are not a summer shop. There are things winter is going to give us an opportunity to do that we wouldn’t be able to if we just had summer business,” Watkins said.
It’s not just the menu getting a makeover. Watkins has turned his shop into the hot destination in town, especially for Christmas. With help from Mandy Majerik with Hot House Designs, he wanted the shop to feel like a special place with lots to see and taste.
“I think people are going to be really captivated by what we’re doing at Christmas,” he said. “I want this place to look like the windows at Macy’s in New York City.”
While Watkins wants his business to remain busy, he admits that a winter slow-down will be nice.
“Since January, it has been almost nonstop. I have lived, breathed, slept, drank and ate this business,” he said. “It will be nice to have a chance to catch our breath.”
Along with changes he hopes to implement in his store, Watkins also set his sights on expanding. With two new locations in development, the winter months will give him the time he didn’t have in the summer to confirm outstanding details and beginning the construction process. But overall, Watkins never wants to fall back on his summer success.
“We always want to be seeing ourselves as new,” he said. “We’re not resting on what we did well this summer, but instead, staying on
trend with culinary trends. That is what’s important to us. And that is what we are hoping will work for the winter.”