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June 29, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Ice pops are trendy, but also a tribute

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Even in cool, rainy Seattle, ice pops are getting hot.

City natives Vanessa Resler and Will Lemke are starting up a bicycle-cart business called Six Strawberries, selling dairy-free frozen treats from fruity Blueberry Lemonade or Rainier Cherry to a “Peanut Butter and Jelly” pop made from a coconut-milk-tofu base. They’ll debut the mobile business Saturday and Sunday, selling pops at 5400 34th Ave. N.W., outside the canal along the Burke-Gilman trail in Ballard. They’re currently licensed to sell pops on private property; once their final permits come in, they’ll pedal through neighborhoods like a human-powered ice cream truck.

Gourmet popsicles — i.e., creative popsicle flavors made from fresh ingredients — are gaining steam nationwide with outlets like Texas-based GoodPops and People’s Pops in New York, but one of the only places we’ve been able to find them in Seattle before this has been the paletas at Full Tilt Ice Cream.

“Our only concern going into it was (being) in the rainy Northwest,” said Vanessa, who describes herself as “a person who loves ice pops more than anybody you’ll ever meet.” But they saw that Sol Pops was succeeding in Portland, and observed the long lines outside Molly Moon Ice Cream even during the winter cold.

Food service is a new avenue for the Seattle natives (Vanessa, 29, is a graduate of Roosevelt High School, and Will, 30, graduated from Franklin. “We’ve got north and south covered,” Vanessa said.) Will owned his own video production company. She was a CPA who hated the work and left it to become a karaoke host (see her at The Attic, where Six Strawberries will also most likely make regular stops.) Once the idea for the bicycle cart hit, “it was full speed ahead,” she said. “If you knew me and Will, we’re kind of crazy, go off and follow your passions people.”

They also had the inspiration of Vanessa’s cousin Alex, who had been in and out of hospitals with heart disease as a child and young adult. During a video chat from his sickbed one day, the three dreamed up the idea of an ice pop stand with crazy flavors: “Super sour apple, ice pops with cake in them, and a pop that tasted like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

Alex, just 27, died soon after.

“He was far more than our cousin, he was our brother and our best friend. We could think of no better way to carry on his legacy than to finish the project that the three of us started together,” Vanessa and Will wrote on their website.

The company’s name comes from a long voice mail joke that Alex once left on a friend’s phone. He was “one of the funniest people you will ever meet,” Vanessa said, and for a long time the words were an inside joke in the family, that a great joke was “six strawberries” worth of humor. It worked out pretty well with a fruit-based business.

When sales get going, Vanessa said, they want a hand in the charitable community as well. Thinking of Alex, “we really want to be involved with working with children with illness,” maybe showing them how to make fun ice pop flavors. “We’re looking for any ins we can get with Children’s Hospital or something of that nature.”

I told her I thought she’d be inundated with requests for help as soon as the word got out. Whether you want to support their goals or just want to enjoy a cool treat, look for their schedule on their website here.

Photo courtesy of Six Strawberries

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