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Photos by Tara Massouleh.
Some of the popsicles offered at Urban Pops.
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Kamy and Riba Adeli.
Kamy Adeli has made chocolate potato chip ice pops, pickle ice pops, even ranch dressing ice pops — and he’s looking to try more. The owner of Hoover’s only ice pop shop has made more than 100 different flavors since he and his wife, Riba, opened Urban Pops in January 2015.
“I sleep at night and wake up in the morning and have a recipe in my head,” he said.
Though it’s Kamy Adeli’s creativity behind flavors such as strawberry cheesecake, banana pudding, cucumber chili and cranberry pomegranate, he said he gets a fair amount of his ideas directly from his customers.
“A lot of times I listen to people,” Kamy Adeli said. “I always make what they want.”
The ranch dressing, pickle and chocolate potato chip pops were all customer requests. And while he is willing to try anything once, Kamy Adeli said his ventures are often hit or miss. The ranch pop tanked, but much to his surprise the pickle pops sold out within a few days.
Overall, Kamy Adeli has gained a lot from listening — he opened Urban Pops after insistent pushing from his 26-year-old daughter Sara. Kamy Adeli, a former restaurant manager and conference center owner, said he was not convinced until his daughter took him to an ice pop shop in New York City.
There, in the dead of winter, people were lining up to get pops.
“That’s what gave me the clue that I need to open one in Birmingham,” he said.
After owning Arthur’s Conference Center off Valleydale Road in Pelham for 17 years, Kamy Adeli and his wife were ready for something new. They sold the business and eventually decided to take their daughter’s advice and open an ice pop shop. They named, decorated and branded the business according to her specifications as well.
“She said, ‘Dad, you need to do rustic,’ and I didn’t know what rustic meant, but she told me exactly what to do,” Kamy Adeli said.
Urban Pops, on the end of the Walmart Super Center strip mall on John Hawkins Parkway, more than accomplishes the “rustic” goal. Along with its exposed brick wall, marble floating counter top, dark wood tables and Birmingham memorabilia, the restaurant also features an entire wall striped in reclaimed wood Kamy Adeli put up himself.
In the shop, Kamy Adeli makes pops in batches of 80. He said he makes hundreds each day, but to keep the pops fresh, they have a shelf life of only two or three days. At any given time, there are more than 30 pop flavors on hand at Urban Pops.
In addition to crowd favorites such as cookies and cream and coffee and fruity flavors such as strawberry and watermelon, the Adelis bring an ethnic flair to their business with Asian flavors from India, Pakistan and their home country of Iran.
Kulfi, a traditional Indian ice cream made with pistachio and cardamom, is served as an ice pop in varieties including mango, apricot and coconut. The couple also make rosewater Rooh Afza pops from Pakistan and an Iranian flavored pop called Akbar Mashti that is laden with pistachio, saffron, rosewater and cream.
Though the couple is resigned to keeping their business a “small mom-and-pop operation,” having just one brick-and-mortar store isn’t keeping them from spreading their pops all throughout the Birmingham area. Between their six carts, three concession trailers and a mobile van, Urban Pops are popping up everywhere.
They’re at the West Homewood Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays, the Lake Cyrus Market on Thursdays and at the Ross Bridge Market on Fridays. Urban Pops also frequently has a cart at Children’s of Alabama hospital’s Food Truck Fridays and at Pepper Place on Saturdays.
This is all in addition their slew of wedding, birthday and corporate catering events and their newest development: Urban Pop freezer chests. Urban Pops are sold at the Galleria Chevron in Hoover, Highland Shell in Birmingham, Ross Bridge Exxon in Hoover, Coosa Mart Exxon in Valleydale and at Shell stations in Homewood, Vestavia and Cahaba Heights.
To keep up with all their new business, the Adelis have enlisted the help of their other daughter Lawden, who handles external Urban Pops sales including catering, events and freezer chest and cart distribution. This way, Kamy and Riba Adeli can focus on doing what they like best: interacting with their customers.
“Eighty percent of my customers are repeat customers,” Kamy Adeli said. “I don’t want to get too big; that way you lose that personal touch.”
Riba Adeli, in fact, has built up quite the reputation around town.
“Sometimes I go to Walmart or go to do errands and people are like ‘Oh, hello; you’re the Urban Pops lady,’” she said.