After opening a shop in Rome, Georgia, a new North Chattanooga resident and franchisee recently brought Frios Gourmet Pops to the area.
Matt Robinson, 33, has played football at Wake Forest University, coached high school football and worked in a church. But he knew he wanted to go into business for himself.
“I love food and I’ve always loved cool environments and spaces where people can gather and have a good time,” he said. “For some reason, I had a thing for gourmet pops.”
So, a few years ago, he started investigating what it would take for him to launch his own gourmet ice pop shop. He looked at equipment and recipes. He made some of his own that didn’t taste great, he said.
As he was working to figure out whether he could turn his pops into a business, a mentor suggested that he look into Frios, which was just getting into franchising.
Robinson went to try the pops at a Gadsden, Alabama shop.
“I thought they were the best thing I’d ever had,” he said.
He got in at the beginning of the Frios franchise model and opened a store in Rome in October 2016, he said.
After that, he started visiting Chattanooga, because it’s only about an hour away from Rome, and he’d been hearing good things about the city.
“I started coming up here and fell in love with the city—everything about it, the great good, the environment, the people, how active it is—I just fell in love,” he said.
About a year after opening his Georgia store, he moved to the Scenic City and found a space for his business in a relatively new development, Signal Mill, which is a renewal of North Chattanooga’s historical knitting mill building.
Robinson, who said he loves industrial style buildings, said the space was perfect.
“I was looking for destination areas,” he said.
Being situated next to Edley’s Bar-B-Que, Mean Mug Coffeehouse, Whole Foods, Rock/Creek and an array of other stores, was ideal. He wanted a place that would draw people for a variety of reasons.
Customers who come to the nearly 1,200-square-foot space, which seats about 30 people, can try dairy or fruit-based pops, made from regionally sourced, natural ingredients as much as possible.
Fruit pops are be made with fruit, organic cane sugar, water and sometimes lemon juice, Robinson said.
The creamy options are made with dairy, which is combined with sweet favorites, such as Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies.
Robinson is also working with the Hot Chocolatier to eventually have chocolate for dipped pops.
There will always be product staples available, but Robinson will also switch up the offerings.
Robinson also wants to get involved more with the community and become a longtime local business.
“I don’t want to blow in for three or four years and then blow out,” he said. “I want to be in Chattanooga for a long, long time…I want people to know this is a local business that loves Chattanooga.”