Jeanne Chang, who opened Lil’ Pop Shop on 44th and Locust last May grew up eating root beer flavored ice pops in her pre-school play yard. Nostalgia for these childhood treats inspired the Culinary Institute of America-trained pastry chef to turn a tasty memory into a working business. But pops are more than child’s play, and Chang feeds everyone from “toddlers to retired folks,” including a motley of Penn students.
Her 18 flavors, which range from Coconut Hibiscus to Chocolate Salted Caramel Brownie, feature unusual ingredient pairings that “highlight the seasonality of produce.” Whether you crave something exotic or vanilla, there’s a pop for every palate. To create these flavors, Chang sources her fruit and dairy from local farms and opts for organic ingredients to maintain a high-quality product. Earl Grey Black Pepper, my personal favorite, transforms this cozy winter tea into a post-meal wake-up call. The pepper adds bite to an iced, milky mouthful that is lighter than ice cream but just as satisfying. At three bucks a pop, these are definitely worth venturing West for.
Chang set up shop in West Philly to capitalize on the hungry foot-traffic that heads to 44th Street hubs Honest Tom’s and Tampopo. Dinner-goers are bound to crave dessert and Lil Pop Shop is strategically placed to satisfy the local foodie’s sweet tooth.
Lil’ Pop Shop makes the sun shine when it’s grey with bright yellow chairs, while patterned fabrics framed in embroidery hoops liven white walls. Understanding the importance of maintaining a uniform brand, Chang reached out to a local graphic designer to help solidify her logo. She’s a big proponent of “outsourcing things you don’t have the skills for” as well as spending the money necessary to create a professional, aesthetic image. Popsicles encircle her logo like a rainbow; the colorful pattern mirrors the fresh stock in her long freezer, which sits front and center in the shop.Chang decided to start her own food business because “food is such a fun thing, it makes people happy and provides instant gratification.” She always knew that she would be an entrepreneur and understands that opening up a shop can be daunting. However, she does maintain that “if you really believe in what you’re selling, it will work out.” Though, she also warns that many food-inclined, aspiring entrepreneurs have “a romanticized vision of what it means to work in food.” You’d best be sure you can handle the heat first.
In transitioning from brainchild to business, Chang cited the importance of organizing your thoughts in a business plan—Google provides plenty of templates. Her simple business model, “one product done really well,” allowed her to be creative in the flavors department. As she and her kitchen team experiment with new pairings they occasionally consult The Flavor Bible for reference. But as Chang explained, once you’re seasoned in the food industry, you tend to know what melds well. Though a recent experiment with tomato flopped, Chang vouches to try again this season. Her menu never lacks eyebrow-raising combos.
As customers peer into the depths of the cold case, comparing provocative labels to their frozen counterparts, youngins can play shopkeeper with a wooden popsicle set in the corner. This operation’s unifying theme centers around the term “Lil.” From tot-sized chairs to miniature pops to preschool paint-set inspired colors, Lil’ Pop Shop takes us all back to our childhood. Jeanne Chang hopes to expand her pop sales with a circulating food truck this summer, as well as a new shop on South Street set to open in May.
Lil’ Pop Shop
265 S. 44th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104