The exotic Le Pops ice-treat offerings — in shades of Cucumber Jalapeno, Creamy Avocado and Salted Caramel, among others — are already on the menu at Pizza Cafe, Argenta Market and the Little Rock Athletic Club Cool Down Cafe. Since August, Le Pops has operated out of the Palette Catering headquarters, where Laurie Harrison fills both distributor orders and her vendor cart. Le Pops have made appearances at the Food Truck Festival and at local craft fairs and farmers' markets. But Le Pops is about to gain a more visible presence in the Little Rock gastronomic scene. On February 15, tentatively, Le Pops will celebrate the grand opening of its River Market shop. What began as a hobby spawned by a chance encounter with homemade pops, has become a full fledged family owned business.
It started with a couple of couples and a public school reading specialist who loves to cook. Laurie Harrison and her husband Charles, a lawyer with McMath Woods, have an 11-year-old daughter named Emma. And Emma is obsessed with popsicles. On a Florida vacation, Laurie and Emma encountered, gourmet ice pops made from local produce. Laurie thought, "We have nothing like this in Central Arkansas." She decided to make her own ice pops.
Laurie's kitchen is no stranger to activity. She makes cheese and yogurt for her family, and she loves experimenting with flavors. So she began to test different pops on her loved ones and using her ties to local businesses to find small scale distribution. But with her full-time educator position, Laurie was having trouble keeping up. She turned to Beth and Scott Williams for help.
Beth and Laurie met years ago, working together at local restaurants. When Laurie and Charles adopted Emma from China, Beth offered to share child-care duties, since both parents work full time. Incidentally, Beth was also married to Charles once, and she and Charles have an adult son. The two couples and their four children often spend holidays together. "Charles and Beth have done a remarkable job of co-parenting and looking out for each other's interests, in the interest of their son," said Scott Williams. "It's an unusual situation, but we're proud that we can all work together and get along." Beth Williams, who was once a co-owner of Cheers, will be the full time manager of the River Market Le Pops shop, and Scott, who moonlights as a medical consultant, will help out with business structuring.
"But it's Laurie's dream and her creation," Scott emphasized. "She's chef and CEO. Beth and I just offer support. And we're still working on making the partnership legal, but that's a technicality. We're all in it for the long haul."
Scott uses software to work out the nutritional value of the pops. "Most of the fruit pops are 100 calories or less," he said. The rest of the nutritional information is available on the Le Pops Facebook page.
According to Williams, Le Pops has a three point mission: they want to use local produce and locally roasted coffee in their pops whenever possible, they want to use all-natural ingredients (no chemicals or preservatives), and they want to continually find ways to make the business "greener."
"We're currently looking for biodegradable packaging options," said Scott. "And we'll learn more as we go along and develop new partnerships."