Best part about being the King of Pops? "Sitting out here on a day when it's 75 degrees and sunny and people come by and talk to you. Especially if people are excited about what you're doing and you get a positive reaction for your product, that's a good feeling."
It's been a year-and-a-half since Steven Carse founded King of Pops after he lost his job as an analyst at insurance company AIG, and from the sounds of it, the 27-year-old does not regret the career change in the least. Originally available at Irwin Street Market, it was only a few months before King of Pops found a permanent home on the pedestrian-heavy intersection of North and Highland avenues. In less than two years, the all-natural, vegan frozen treat caught the attention of media outlets and publications, such as Creative Loafing, CNN, and Delta's Sky Magazine, and expanded to include retailers. Now KOP is even available out of state in North and South Carolina. So how did Carse decide to repay the community that made him King? With a free, rock 'n' roll field day fit for both children and adults as a way of saying thank you.
The Sun., Oct. 23, event at Masquerade Music Park includes music by local bands, such as synth-pop rockers Sealions and Beatles' tribute band Please Please Rock Me, plus field day inspired activities, such as the three-legged race, egg toss, potato sack race and dunk tank. King of Pops Field Day also includes a yoga class by Neda Draupadi Honarvar from Tough Love Yoga at 1 p.m., food trucks, a ping pong tournament, a pop-eating contest, and ice carving.
The King of Pops Field Day Facebook event page explains: "Ever since we sold our first pop, from a seemingly misplaced push cart on North Avenue, it has been clear that this wasn't just about some frozen goodness on a stick. Pineapple Habanero and Banana Puddin' aside, It was about community. Thousands and thousands of smiles, as well as a few dollars later, we want to do something to say thanks and give a little back."
With that in mind, we got together with Carse to talk about community, proceeds going to save Criminal Records, and what King of Pops Field Day is all about.
Tell us about Field Day.
The field day is just a way to say thank you to Atlanta, and also do something to bring the community together. I know there's a bunch of festivals, not that any of those are good or bad, it's just going to be something different. It's not going to be young or old, it's going to be for families — it's going to be for everyone. I want to bring people together. It's not always about the money, sometimes it's just about doing something.
What is your favorite field day memory?
I'm pretty competitive. Most of my childhood field day memories are of glorious victory, and crushing defeats. I think the most fun was the three-legged race, and my inability to control my hysterical laughing.
Attendees get three free game tickets, after which it's $1 each, with proceeds going to Criminal Records. Why do you think it's important to save Criminal Records?
I think it's an important part of the city. If [Eric Levin] pulls off what he's trying to pull off, and makes a community based music store, then I'm all for that.
How soon after your launch did the community begin to react and reach out to King of Pops?
Pretty quick, actually. I'd never done anything like this. The first month was super awkward, sitting out here. I didn't really have the same setup. This doesn't look that nice, but compared to what I had back then, I had a little tiny umbrella that kind of held onto this and barely covered the cart. If you go on Yelp!, the first picture is of it — it's like, theres a dude that sits in a lawn chair and hes sells popsicles — and that's what the usual response was. But, if I could talk to people for 15 minutes about [the popsicles], they were usually excited. People didn't know what it was. Usually the people who ended up getting them just happened to be really hot and wanted something cold and it grew from there.
How do you think the food truck trend and the easing up on food truck restrictions has helped Atlanta, if at all?
I think it's helped. In a way right now it's still ... I don't think it's completely the city's fault or anyone's fault, but, in a way, right now, we don't really have street food. Some people are doing it, like Yumbii, and a few actually go to places and set up, but most of what you see right now is street food meetups, which are great, they're awesome, but that's not — I think when people say street food, that's not necessarily the concept. I think it's great for the city, the more different types of foods that people can try, and the good thing about street food is that people are interacting with each other. That's what I like about this — it's a gas station corner, but people talk to strangers. If you're in a normal restaurant, you're usually not going to deal with the person sitting next to you.
What are some characteristics or traits Atlanta holds that you think make it such a wonderful city, in particular for small business owners?
I think Atlanta Atlanta, like if you get into downtown Atlanta, it has people that are proud of this city. It's not so much this way anymore, but people used to be like, "Oh, I'm in Atlanta now, but I'm trying to get to New York or trying to get to L.A." I think the people that are here in Atlanta now — that are choosing to be here, that want to be here — they're proud of it. And the great thing about Atlanta is that it's not that hard to be a part of it; it's not that hard to be active, and do events, and have a great response, and actually make a difference in a place. For such a big city, you can make a big difference, whereas, I never lived in New York or anything, but I would imagine there it's a lot more difficult to get things rolling.
What's your favorite thing about Atlanta and why?
Aside from an easily accessible large body of water, I think Atlanta has it all. The perfect amount of grit, good people and things to do. In a way I feel like urban Atlanta is under the radar, it is getting better every day and it's fun to be a part of that. I may leave Atlanta here and there, but I will always end up back here because it is my home.
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