By Camille Baptista
When Natalie Petty had the idea to sell homemade popsicles made with local, seasonal fruit and herbs, she knew that if there was anywhere her business could be successful, it was the East Bay.
“A lot of people get scared with you say sage and rosemary and you’re talking about a popsicle,” she said. But so far, the daring flavor combinations coming out of the new Seas’n’Lies popsicle cart — from apricot lemon balm to cherry-lime-mint, and the latest, cantelope tarragon — have been well-received.
Although the idea only blossomed in May, Petty and co-owner Chelsea Heller, who met working at Elmwood Café in Berkeley, are quickly making their popsicle-selling dreams come true. Since their kickoff party on May 26, Seas’n’Lies has been invited to sell at a number of Bay Area gallery openings and has popped up at the Elmwood Café, as well as on select street corners. On July 4, the cart made an appearance at the marina in Martinez.
“We like selling out on the street and just kind of finding places places to go,” Petty said.
She and Heller get their popsicle flavor ideas by seeing what local farmers have to offer.
“We go the farmers markets and we find the fruit that is just absolutely at its highest peak,” she said. “You want the sweetest fruit you can get.”
Operating under the new statewide Homemade Food Act, which was designed for small-scale, home-run food businesses and became effective in January, they then complete the production process from home. Combining herb-based simple syrups with ripe, sugary fruit, they create what Petty says are well-thought-out and balanced flavor combinations.
“I really like blood orange peach sage,” said Petty, who has always wanted to start her own creative food business. “That was my favorite.”
Once they finalize necessary permits and get things going, Petty and Heller hope to cater more private parties and participate in local food festivals. Petty recently submitted samples for the Eat Real Festival, the annual food fair in Oakland that emphasizes local and sustainably produced foods. This year’s festival will take place at Jack London Square from Sept. 27-29 (and Berkeleyside Nosh will be there.)
For now, the two owners are letting word of mouth be their chief advertiser while they focus on making the business more streamlined. Petty currently squeezes every lemon by hand when making the popular strawberry-lemon-basil popsicle and would like to invest in a juicer. In order to bring in some funds and avoid relying on loans, they recently launched a fundraising page on Indiegogo, where they’ve posted a video about their business. They hope to make Seas’n’Lies a community-supported business.
“I want it to be very holistic and homegrown,” Petty said, explaining that she finds people in Berkeley in particular to be very open to creative food ideas.
“The people here really care about where their food comes from and I think are really open to unique flavor combinations,” she said.
Petty and Heller hope to be well-established by the time the cold weather comes, when they will likely start experimenting in other areas such as candy-making, baking and selling popsicle-making kits.
Although they originally thought selling frozen treats would be convenient because they are easy to store and don’t perish quickly, keeping the popsicles cold while they’re out wheeling the cart around is one obstacle the owners are grappling with. Petty said she hopes to upgrade to a truck or even a brick-and-mortar store sometime in the future.
Right now, she said, “I’m happy with our cart.”
Camille Baptista is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. She studies creative writing and human rights at Barnard in New York City, where she writes for the Columbia Daily Spectator.
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