The Man Behind The Pops
Jul 02, 2018 10:54AM
● By Ashley Madonna
On a hot July afternoon, it’s easy to feel like you’re melting. To cool off, many locals head over to the Southlake Steel City Pops. Founder Jim Watkins may have set up shop in his hometown of Alabama, but he has plenty of Texas ties. So, we spent five minutes learning more about the family man behind the pops.
WHILE ON VACATION … with my family in Nashville in the spring of 2002, we stumbled across a unique shop called Las Paletas. It was a simple store selling unique sweets called Mexican paletas – more commonly known as pops.
BUT THEY WERE SO MUCH MORE … than just pops. These delicious paletas were gourmet, brightly colored, all natural and healthy too – simply unlike anything we’d ever had. When we tasted these amazing pops, we decided everyone needed to know about this.
FAST FORWARD … nine years. As I was turning 40, I found myself unhappy in my career and wanting to fulfill a lifelong dream of owning a restaurant. So, I quit my job and began learning all I could about restaurant ownership from some amazing friends.
MY MOM AND I … developed all the initial recipes and that was a real treasured time for me since she had taught me how to cook.
IT TRULY HAS BEEN A FAMILY BUSINESS … from the start. My mom helped with the recipes, my dad gave lots of business advice, my wife and four sons have all worked very hard to build shops, make pops, vend events, etc. We have all been very actively involved in our business.
I REALLY JUST … wanted to open a small shop in Homewood, Alabama, and share great food with folks. I didn’t set out to build Steel City Pops into a multi-store idea. So, it started simply for me to make great food, offer great service and manage my business as well.
WE ONLY USE … natural ingredients in all of our pops. The difference in this is found in the flavor. Our commitment to this and making our pops in small batches ensures high quality and great flavor.
STEEL CITY POPS’ … name comes from a nickname for Birmingham (our home city). In the early 1900s, Birmingham and Pittsburgh were the two largest producers of steel in America, so that is where our name originated.
AFTER OUR FIRST SHOP … had been open about two months, I realized we were going to have the opportunity to grow it into something larger than we had originally envisioned. So, we began looking for the best spot for store number two. We found that spot after a few months of looking and opened our second store in Birmingham about 11 months after we started our business.
I THINK OUR ORIGINAL GOALS WERE … making great food, offering great service (which is about having awesome employees) and also creating nice environments for people to gather.
MY WIFE WAS BORN AND RAISED IN EULESS … and I went to Baylor, so we have lots of family and friends in the area. While it may seem to others to be a long way from Alabama, it is home to us, and we are very connected to the DFW area.
AS FAR AS SOUTHLAKE … it is our sixth location we opened in the DFW area. We had been looking here for two years, and we felt like our current location is the best one we could’ve found. We love the ease of getting into and out of the center, and the patio area is awesome!
WE FEEL LIKE THEY ARE … a great time treat. Our menu changes with the seasons, so if you haven’t tried Steel City Pops in the fall or at Christmas time, you should! They are some of my favorite flavors we serve. But summertime is the perfect time to have our pops. It is such a refreshing treat for those hot Texas summer days.
LOCAL PEACHES AND MELONS … are our big highlights of the summer menu. Our pops of the month feature in July is Peach Cobbler A La Mode: Peach Cream Pop, dipped in white chocolate and dredged in graham cracker crumbs.
WE HOPE OUR STORES … are fun places to gather. We have designed each one to be a place where you can come with family/friends and relax.