Jeff Patrick, co-owner of Nicey Frozen Treats, a new local handmade popsicle company, is still learning the ropes of city permitting. So if you see the cops hauling off a guy on a retro bicycle cart, know that he isn't really in the wrong.
"You gotta dig deep with this bureaucracy - it gets so complicated," Jeff laughs. "But overall people have been extremely supportive; we've been overwhelmed."
(By the way, if you do witness that scene, wait for the cops to clear, and then follow that man on his bike. As soon as he stops somewhere it's legal for him to sell, buy one of his treats. It'll be worth your effort.)
It all began in the hot Indiana summers of yesteryear. Jeff's grandfather, who worked for Quality Check in Seymour, a commercial dairy, always had a generous stash of icepops in his freezer, the highlight of the visit for an outdoors-loving boy.
Fast-forward to 2010. On vacation in Mexico, Jeff had his first paleta - a Latin American popsicle sold beachside on carts or in a paleteria. With its unusual flavor combinations and fresh ingredients, it was the best popsicle he'd ever tasted. It brought back an ocean of memories from childhood summers, but with flavor combinations matching his adult sensibilities.
Jeff works by day as a video producer for his company, Headquake Productions. But on his off hours, he and his wife, Stacey, experiment in their Meridian Park kitchen. When Jeff decided to start making popsicles, the standby supermarket flavors just wouldn't do. And so began almost two years of research, into everything from whether Indianapolis already had a homemade-popsicle vendor (as far as Jeff can tell, he's the first in the Midwest) to finding the best machine for sealing the pops in recyclable plastic bags.
There was also the fun part - the decisions about flavors. Pink grapefruit. Blueberry buttermilk. Sweet black tea and lemon (also known as the Arnie P). Avocado. These flavors were developed in their home kitchen (Jeff claims to be the only person in Indianapolis eating popsicles in January), tested, and re-tested for making volumes of up to 80 at a time in their rented space at Indy's Kitchen. They now have seven staples on the menu all summer long, with seasonal flavors available when ingredients are at their peak; all are priced at $3.
"Tennessee strawberries are coming into season, and when we get those we'll offer a strawberry cheesecake flavor," Jeff says. "It's hard to go wrong when you have the best ingredients."
The popsicles are sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, or honey; the dairy flavors use milk from Trader's Point and cream from Organic Valley (both hormone-free); and their high-end chocolate is from Guittard, the same brand used by The Best Chocolate in Town.
The pops are frozen quickly using a machine that facilitates the formation of micro-crystals, rather than the macro-crystals that form when freezing pops at home. Micro-crystals equal soft ice, from the first bite to the last; even the dairy-free flavors have a velvety smooth texture.
As a member of 1% For The Planet, an international consortium of eco-friendly businesses, Nicey Treat gives 1 percent of sales to a variety of environmental non-profits. The Patricks also support local organizations like Zoobilation and Noble of Indiana, and use compostable popsicle sticks - if you bring 10 Nicey sticks back to them, you get a free treat, and they'll recycle the sticks for you.
After all, Jeff and Stacey measure success by the stick: "When a kid comes back three times, that's when I know we have a good product. Kids say exactly what they think; they don't sugar-coat anything."