When someone hears the term "pop culture," they usually think of modern media or entertainment. For Knoxville residents, however, a more frozen and tasty alternative has taken its place.
PopCulture is a local business that sells gourmet frozen popsicles, properly referred to as "paletas." Located on Walnut Street, the business is owned by Jason Mitchell, an entrepreneur who wanted to create an all-natural popsicle business. One of the ways he accomplishes business motto is through buying locally-produced ingredients.
"I decided, because I went to a lot of farmers markets, that I could source locally as much as possible," Mitchell said. "This way, it's sort of my little part of doing something healthy, and they still taste good without adding all that other garbage in it."
PopCulture employee Lois Hammett has watched the business grow since it opened in 2012, and says the healthier aspects of local ingredients have drawn locals in.
"Americans are trying to be more health conscious," Hammett said. "The local ingredients are all-natural fresh produce and they're really healthy. They aren't the popsicles you buy at Kroger."
The aspect of knowing where the business' ingredients derive from has helped lead PopCulture to flourish in the Knoxville community.
"To keep it local, you know the farmers, and you know where it comes from, and you can learn what is actually in your food," Mitchell said. "When customers walk up to me at a farmers market and ask about the fruit, I can just point to the farmer that I get the ingredients from."
In the future, Mitchell said he hopes the business will expand while keeping its local identity. He said the wide variety of popsicle flavors will help the business succeed at larger festivals.
"I sold popsicles at the Bristol Motor Speedway last week, and I want to do a lot of the music festivals, like Bonnaroo and other big events like that, and use that to get the word out," Mitchell said.
The idea of PopCulture was born when Mitchell took his daughter to a similar shop in Nashville. Hammett said the visits made him realize that the popsicles changed people's attitudes.
"He (Mitchell) noticed that the people coming out of the store were all happy," Hammett said. "That was where his idea began."
After experimenting in his kitchen at home, Mitchell moved to Knoxville and soon became, according to his business card, "Chief Pop Officer," so he could fulfill his lifelong dream.
"I spent 25 years in the corporate environment, and this is a lot lower stress," Mitchell said. "I wanted to have fun, and I wanted to enjoy what I do."
In order to make his business better known throughout the campus community, Mitchell has been selling his products at the UT Farmers Market at the UT Gardens. He said his bestselling popsicle flavor is the Strawberry Lemonade.
"The Strawberry Lemonade is a safe, good starting flavor," Mitchell said. "It always sells better that anything else."
The mission of Pop Culture is to brighten each visitor's day and, according to Mitchell, he just wants to make his guests happy.
"I like seeing people smile," Mitchell said. "There's a sense of satisfaction of creating something that people enjoy, even if it's just a temporary dessert."