"Popsicle®, Creamsicle®, Fudgsicle®, and Yosicle® are registered trademarks of the Unilever Group of Companies and can only be used to identify the frozen confection products of Unilever. They may not be used to refer to frozen confection products of other companies or frozen confection products generally. Misuse of these trademarks may violate Unilever's very valuable rights."
This is the first in a series of disclaimers on Popsicle.com asserting its ownership of a suffix almost universally used to refer to treats purchased from a musical vehicle in the hot months. (More comical warnings follow: Did you know that the word "Popsicle" should never be used in the plural form? Rather, please politely order more than one Popsicle® ice pop.) What is a burgeoning frozen-dessert-on-a-stick company to do?
Seattle's premier not-Popsicle® producer has determined that "artisan ice pop" is the answer. Six Strawberries, founded in 2012 by Will Lemke and Vanessa Resler, is growing faster than ever. The duo recently set up a production kitchen in Ballard with a new multi-thousand-dollar Brazilian-made Finamac ice-pop flash-freezer that fits a set of heavy-duty stainless steel molds; they've also got a new bicycle cart from which to peddle at the Broadway and Phinney Farmers Markets, and a 1966 Ford Econoline van soon to be decorated with their brand-new logo by local artist Kim Berkley. They're constantly working to improve the business; for example, the Finamac freezes their pops many times faster than their old system, eliminating fruit-base separation for a consistent texture and reducing the size of ice crystals for a "sorbet-creaminess," also allowing Will, who develops the recipes, to scale back the water content for serious flavor concentration.
The idea to start an ice-pop shop was born years ago, when Vanessa's cousin Alex was in the hospital battling a heart condition. About a month after he was admitted, the two were "farting around on Skype," dreaming up a concept for a Popsicle business. Popsicles are Vanessa's favorite food, and the cousins drafted plans to launch the project when Alex got out of the hospital. When Alex died of complications one week later, it shattered Vanessa and Will's world. Picking up the pieces, they quit their respective jobs and launched Six Strawberries as an outlet through which to deal with their grief and as a way to pay tribute to their friend and family member. According to Vanessa, "We always say that Alex is the third founder of the company. Also, neither of us ever wanted to go on another job interview."
Both Vanessa and Will bring skills from their past livelihoods to their current passion, with Will's career in marketing and filmmaking lending promotional expertise and Vanessa's background as a wedding DJ offering valuable connections in the event world. Vanessa still DJs, by the way, and she's the Friday-night karaoke host at the Attic in Madison Park, too.
Favorites among current Six Strawberries offerings include Blueberry Lemonade, which has a lush texture balanced with a subtly sweet tartness, and the Caffe Vita Latte pop, whose coconut-creaminess is tropically comforting and complements the slightly bitter coffee. As a fan of most things non-vegan, I personally missed the weight of true dairy in Six Strawberries' fudge bar, which offered a complex but fleeting cocoa flavor without the creaminess that makes the conventional version so satisfying. Will is currently playing around with soy/tofu-based recipes, sourcing directly from Northwest Tofu, which would be a local and still-GMO-free alternative to their original coconut-milk-based recipes. Most featured ingredients in their nine regular flavors are sourced hyper-locally from artisan producers and farmers like Caffe Vita, Hayton Farms, and Theo Chocolate, and they "bundle" with other businesses by buying bags of organic cane sugar from Rachel's Ginger Beer (which buys the stuff by the pallet) and picking up zested lemons from local Letterpress Distillery's limoncello operation. Will and Vanessa say it just makes sense financially to keep everything close to home.
The vegan nature of Six Strawberries' work is born out of necessity; though Will is a self-described excited eater—"That's my way of not saying foodie," he says—he's lactose intolerant and felt left out of the recent cupcake and ice cream crazes. "I don't want to be lactose intolerant, I don't want to be a picky eater, but you can't force the market to make what you want," he says. The goal, therefore, is to make their product as universally consumable as possible, so all of Six Strawberries' products are vegan, save for one pop that features a honey-laced graham-cracker garnish.
As Six Strawberries sets its sights on wholesale—their treats are already available at Central Co-op—and a brick-and-mortar shop in the future, it doesn't seem like lack of access to the -sicle® suffix is holding them back.
This article has been updated since its original publication.