GULFPORT -- It takes a bit of recycling, a lot of creativity and pounds of fresh fruit to run a successful dessert business whose model is to give its customers big flavor on a small carbon footprint.
In downtown Gulfport, just north of the railroad tracks, the Pop Brothers artisan popsicle stand does just that.
Customers coming in to buy a frozen treat often see co-owner Octavio Arzola in the back, slicing fruit or packaging finished popsicles in plastic sleeves and closing with recycled twist ties.
His wife, Shannon, said a child came in last week and asked his parent where "that man" was.
Octavio had been out running an errand.
"He creates all the recipes and creates the popsicles," Shannon said. "All of the flavors are his creations."
A native of Spain, Octavio had been a food and beverage manager at Beau Rivage in Biloxi.
Then he and his wife lived in Chicago, where he managed several fine-dining restaurants.
Shannon wanted to move home to Gulfport after her children came back to the Coast, so she and Octavio packed up and came home. He teamed up with Shannon's brother, Chuck Kelly, to open the popsicle shop.
Pop Brothers opened in June, and Octavio said it's been busy.
The handcrafted pops are frozen in batches using an in-house popsicle machine.
They are organic and gluten-free and 75 percent of them are under 100 calories. Ninety percent of the treats have fruit in them.
The creamy pops Octavio calls "indulgent" are made with milk and Greek yogurt. If a flavor has chocolate in it, it's cacao.
"Those are the ones we want our customers to have once or twice per week," he said.
Octavio said he uses fresh fruit from Gulf Coast Produce and the Farmers Market.
The pops are all natural and have no added chemicals or refined sugar. Most are vegan friendly.
"We wanted to bring something healthy to the Mississippi Coast," he said. "We knew Mississippi was ready to have something like this."
There are about 38 flavors now, but some options change by the season. Pumpkin pie is available for fall.
The vanilla coffee is made with Madagascar vanilla and Italian-blend coffee.
Berries and cream is a customer favorite, as are Oreo cheesecake, Nutella, Very Berry Lemonade and strawberry basil with a balsamic glaze.
In Spain, Octavio Arzola said, balsamic is often mixed with fruit for a snack or meal.
The flavor process includes a lot of trial and error.
If he makes something he isn't happy with, the recipe gets altered or discarded.
"We never know what fruit we're going to get," Octavio said. "We make it up as we go."
The pops retail for $3. Specialty flavors are $4.
Shannon said customers can also buy packs of 12 or 24 of their favorites packed in dry ice so they stay cold on the ride home.
Pop Brothers also has pop-up carts available for rent for special events or business meetings.
On the first Sunday of Cruisin' The Coast, Octavio said he sold 1,000 popsicles.