Jackson, Mississippi has a rich and storied history, as any resident will tell you.
A drive through districts such as Fondren, Belhaven, Washington Addition and Farish street will quickly illustrate this point: many restaurants, bars, and shops from the 1950s and earlier are still in business today, often with the same signage and decoration. They are relics of a bygone era, scattered throughout the city.
Deep South Pops is not one of these relics. They opened their doors on State Street in 2015. Despite that, though, they manage to capture that time-capsule feel of the city.
“That’s the thing about popsicles,” owner Jake Franklin says. “It is definitely a nostalgic experience for people of all ages. We have customers age 0 to 100.”
It’s not just the food that causes this feeling. The whole atmosphere at this little café/coffee shop/bar/ice cream parlor harkens back to a more community-driven time when you knew all your neighbors and a walk down to the corner store was a common Saturday afternoon activity.
As Franklin puts it, “That’s the fun thing. All these age groups are here at the same time and they end up interacting together. It’s fun to see this place be a place for the community and of the community, connections are made here.”
That atmosphere is no accident. Franklin, his wife Kristy, and their four children moved to Jackson in 2013 and, as he puts it, “very quickly fell in love with this city, and this area in particular.” It was that very sense of community, with a touch of nostalgia, that drew them in.
“I moved from a very, very rural area near Birmingham. That’s where I grew up.” Franklin explains. “Our closest neighbor was half a mile away! Coming from that environment to an area where it’s very much a community and you can walk to everything you need, and in doing things like that you meet and see and get to know the community around you, I really fell in love with that model of living, the sense of togetherness that that provides. And that really shaped how I live and what I wanted this business to be.”
Franklin had always had an idea in the back of his mind for a place like Deep South Pops. “We wanted to serve products that we were passionate about,” he remembers, “The popsicles are a pretty fresh kind of new idea. I’m a big coffee lover, and a big craft beer guy, so we thought we could come up with a concept that could use all of those.”
But something was still missing. Franklin knew that in an industry where frozen yogurt places and coffee shops rarely survived a full year in business, his concept would need something extra to go the distance.
Soon after moving to Jackson, he realized that Jackson’s community spirit just might provide the final missing element that could make the whole thing work.
“Jackson is the biggest small town ever,” he laughs. “In the end we figured out that we could use all of those together. We pair popsicles with coffees; we pair popsicles with beers; we use beers in popsicles. That original idea turned into something that was even better than we thought it could be in the beginning.”
As for his personal favorite popsicle flavor combination? “Grapefruit Rosemary,” he says, without hesitation.
Of course, Jackson’s particular history is not altogether rosy. One cannot celebrate the nostalgia factor of the city’s historic businesses without acknowledging that fact. But Franklin works to create a space for the entire community to enjoy as one. “What we serve and the environment we provide, what we strive for, is not something that is divided by background, or race, or religion or any of that,” he says. “The concept of popsicles is not a thing that is divisive; it’s a thing that is inclusive. Our vision was to have a place that served the things that people enjoy when they’re just hanging out and having a good time.”
Deep South Pop’s second location, in Highland Village, celebrates its one-year anniversary next month. However, unlike some restaurant entrepreneurs, Franklin actually doesn’t have his eye on something new and different just yet. Instead, he wants to focus on what he’s already built.
“To me, this is home,” he says. “The future for this place is just growth in what it is: a place for the community.”