Fans of the television show “Billion Dollar Buyer” on CNBC have never seen star Tilman Fertitta get the kind of welcome to a business he received Wednesday as he pulled up at Pop Brothers downtown.
Cheerleaders from Gulfport High School and St. Patrick High School gave a cheer. Mayor Billy Hewes shook Fertitta’s hand and a banner on a fire truck welcomed him to the city.
“Oh my gosh,” Fertitta said as he stepped through the welcome line and was handed his first Pop Brothers popsicle from co-owner Octavio Arzola.
He took a few bites and said, “I don’t want to fill up on this one because I’m going to taste some more.”
Pop Brothers has 50 flavors for him to try, said Arzola, who owns the business at 1501 25th Ave. with his wife, Shannon.
Fertitta, CEO and owner of Landry’s Inc., features two businesses in every episode of his show and places a large order with them if the product fits one of his more than 500 businesses that include casinos and restaurants.
He told the Sun Herald during the first season of the show that he asked producers to find a business in the Biloxi area he could work with in Season Two.
He was at his Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi last week filming for the show and confirmed he would go to Pop Brothers.
Gulfport officials decided that was reason for a celebration.
“It’s another showcase for us,” said Hewes.
The popsicle business is perfect for the show, the mayor said.
“It’s a handmade, homemade product that is just taking off,” Hewes said.
Brandon Webb, who works for BancorpSouth, sent an email to Fertitta telling him about Pop Brothers three or four months ago. That email was forwarded to Ryan Hayes, executive chef at Golden Nugget Biloxi. Hayes and his family came and tried the popsicles and met Arzola.
“He’s got the passion,” Hayes said as he waited for his part in the filming of the show.
“They’re some of the best ice pops I’ve ever had,” said Kathy Ruiz, Landry’s corporate chef, who also was ready to go on camera.
She’s worked for Fertitta for 22 years and said “every day is fun.”
Arzola didn’t know what to expect Wednesday but said he has seen the “Billion Dollar Buyer” and knows that a large order from Fertitta can propel his business.
Pop Brothers opened in Gulfport a year ago.
“We’re getting ready to open another location in Ocean Springs,” Arzola said. “Our goal is to be in several of the Coast cities.”
Arzola came to South Mississippi from Spain in 2005 when he was hired as assistant food and beverage manager to help open Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi after Hurricane Katrina.
He used to work in suits and had many employees, he said.
These days he comes to work in shorts.
“Now I’m 100 times happier,” Arzola said.
Gulfport and the rest of the country will have to wait until the “Billion Dollar Buyer” airs in late fall or winter to see if Pop Brothers gets its big deal.