Celebrating 15 Years Of Community
Ice pops? In the middle of February?
If they’re UrbanPops – yes!
Thinking about winter’s long freezing, days brings to mind neither the
warmth nor the aroma of hot cocoa and marshmallows ‘round the
fireplace; rather, they bring to mind the delicious chill of Mrs.
Sophia Cohen’s famed UrbanPops, now under OK supervision. Community
members familiar with the delightful taste of any of the UrbanPops
flavors will agree that the pops are a cool topic… all year round.
The Makings of a Good Thing
Three and a half years ago, the first taste of UrbanPops deliciousness
debuted among Sophia Cohen’s family members exclusively. That first
tang was spurred by Sophia’s desire to give her children a natural
alternative to sugary popsicles. “I’m very into health. I like
‘natural’ and making things from scratch.” In foods like mayonnaise or
pancakes, which this Brooklyn mother likes to make from scratch, she
appreciates when there are no unnecessary, unhealthy ingredients.
“But the truth is,” Sophia admits, “I started before I started.” When
she chanced upon a sorbet recipe on a web blog, she made a go for it.
“All I knew before that was orange juice [frozen] in a plastic mold.”
Pleased with her first ices – mixed berry, created in an ice cube tray
– she noted that they were healthy and contained antioxidants.
Although sugar was an ingredient in the ices, “the extra junk,” she
says, like coloring and syrups, was not.
All was forgotten until, over a year later, Sophia found herself at a
lemonade stand one June day. The lemonade was great, and she learned
that simple syrup (a boiled sugar-water combination) and lemon juice
was all there was to it. Ever the do-it-yourself mom, she thought “I
could make this!” And her next thought, which turned out to be a
life-altering one, was “I could make ices out of this!”
That very Shavuot, Sophia made a large bucket of lemon sorbet out of
the simple syrup and fresh lemons and served it for dessert. It was a
sweltering day, and the lemon sorbet was a refreshing hit and gone in
a flash. Another time, she had a whole leftover watermelon, and it
naturally became fodder for a new flavor of sorbet. Then she tried
strawberries... and the rest is history.
Sophia continued to invent new flavors of her delicious sorbet to the
delight of her children and their neighbors. “The kids of the block
were always knocking and asking ‘Could I have?’” she relates. “It was
“But,” she continues, “It was my sister, Alexis Fallas, who pushed me
to sell.” Her sister knew of Sophia’s industriousness all too well.
They began to sell containers of sorbet, selling limonana, strawberry,
coconut, and others, all of which were instant hits. Thus
began Sophia Cohen’s sorbet business which she called UrbanFrost.
Stepping It Up
Sophia Cohen built up her repertoire of sorbet flavors beyond just
the fruity ones. As the number of sales increased, her husband Gary, left his job to run the business side by side with her.
“We started having fun,” she recalls aloud. She experimented with
different, even more exciting flavors and, as always, used only the
But Sophia was still not satisfied. Her customers had been ordering
pint- and quart-sized containers of the cold stuff, and she wanted
them to be able to enjoy a selection of multiple flavors. She wanted
to produce the ices as individual popsicles since, in her words,
“everyone has different preferences.” At first, she worried over the
expense of the molds as they were costly and she was strapped
financially, but her husband urged her, “Hashem is with you; just do
it!” She did, and, in the end, the business, which was renamed
UrbanPops, financed itself. “It was the nicest part; to see Hashem’s
hand in everything.” UrbanPops was officially born.
Sophia’s very first order of six flavors of UrbanPops was from an
elementary school friend, Bella Sardar. “Our customers were great,”
she enthuses. Always seeking to please her customers, she’d ask them
“What do you love? What do you hate? Be honest; I can handle it!” But
the feedback was always positive. The proof? Sophia reached a point
where the Cohen children would walk in from school to a virtual store:
Machines would whirl, dry ice would be out, cartons would practically
reach the ceiling, and seven freezers stood like soldiers ready to be
This past summer, she and a friend, Emily Cohen, came out with
CleanPops which had no refined sugars. They produced delicious,
refreshing flavors like “peanut butter banana,” “coconut water” and
“lemon cayenne pepper.”
With the thrill and satisfaction she derived from selling UrbanPops
also came the challenge. Innovating, mixing and selling the ices
evolved into a pattern of making pops and sleeping, making pops and
sleeping. When she found her business was “eating her out of house and
home,” she knew it was time to step it up still further.
Out of the House
Eight months ago, UrbanPops transitioned from the Cohen home to a
brand new facility equipped with the gear and appliances necessary to
produce the quality natural ices for the hundreds of UrbanPops fans.
Sophia explains that she worked from home for nearly three years and,
therefore, it was “a hard jump to take.” There were the overwhelming
logistics of launching a business – labor, overhead, margins – to
consider, as well. While, at first, she had not rushed to leave,
later, she concluded that her thriving ices business would regress if
it remained at home.
“I didn’t know if I was making a sound business decision,” Sophia
says, referring to the move. However, at that advanced stage of the
business, “it was almost beyond my control,” she says. “My house was
purging me, and I had to move.” Not to mention, she adds, her husband
essentially pushed the business out of the house. She adds that Hashem
took care of her every step of the way.
Sophia Cohen’s original ices and her subsequent UrbanPops, high in
demand, were – and are – available via pickup in Brooklyn. Now, they
added the bonus of a weekend UrbanPops concession at the Sephardic
Community Center on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.
To meet the growing demand outside of Brooklyn, Sophia and her
husband were glad to learn that dry ice would do the trick in
delivering the ices intact. Now, the UrbanPops craze is spreading
consistently beyond Brooklyn’s borders. It has, at present, made
inroads in Deal, Lakewood, Five Towns, Queens and Monsey. During the
summers, Allenhurst’s Main St. features the UrbanPop Shop named for
its enchanting contents. “That changed everything,” Sophia notes.
The UrbanPops mastermind nurtures a vision of concessions similar to
the one in Allenhurst in additional locations. She envisions a
rotation of flavors and fully-stocked freezers filled with the fresh,
vibrant colors of the different pops.
What a Thrill!
Sophia Cohen believes that work should be enjoyable. Though it’s been
three years since she began her business, she pumps a refreshing vigor
and excitement into all its aspects, including the marketing and
photography. She knows her customers by name and automatically
associates them with the UrbanPops flavors they love.
Sophia urges other enterprising women to be willing to take a risk,
if necessary. “Have confidence, ask advice, enjoy, and go with your
gut!” So says the woman behind one of the most successful and
delicious ice pops around.