Do you ever feel that your life is just passing by?
Professionally speaking, at least, that was the thought of Fondrenite Jake Franklin. He and his wife Kristy had moved to Jackson from rural Alabama two years ago, four kids in tow, he working a telecommunications job.
About this time last year, Franklin sat to watch a movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” directed by and starring Ben Stiller. In the 2013 adaptation of a 1947 film, Walter Mitty is stuck in his circumstances, always daydreaming about what could be. And then one day, Mitty sets off on an adventure that changes his life.
Almost a year to the day, Franklin and his family have embarked on an adventure of their own, becoming small business owners in neighboring Belhaven with Deep South Pops.
“I’m a big dreamer,” Franklin says from the blindingly bright back corner of his treat shop meets coffee house on State Street. “Walter Mitty was a dreamer, doing what he wouldn’t normally do in life. Something just snapped and he started doing those things. And I identified so much with this character. The next day, I’m trying to figure out what (our business) would look like and how to finance it.”
Deep South Pops was inspired by Birmingham’s Steel City Pops, an idea Franklin saw as popular that Jackson was lacking. He looked first in Fondren for a location to build his business, but space was in short supply. Passing by a former filling station across from Millsaps College, Franklin fell in love with the spot in the midst of Fondren and Belhaven, the two communities very much tied together in his mind. “We live in one and work in the other, but most people we deal with in Fondren have great friends in Belhaven and vice versa,” he explained. “We wanted it to be a place for the communities to come together.”
And they do. Most weekday afternoons and nights, the shop is filled with friends playing games, teens giggling, phones in hand, or couples on date night. Soon, students from neighboring Belhaven University and Millsaps will find a place for escape.
Just three weeks open, Deep South will go through 350 pops a day, 1,100 on a Saturday and Sunday. The Franklins are in as early as 3 a.m. to begin the day’s production and can still be found working toward midnight. It’s a good thing the caffeine flows freely here, too.
Franklin says they’re serious about their coffee, just as much a part of the business as Popsicles. “Once we decided to move past ‘just pops,’ it was very important to us that no one product received less attention,” he tells. “We have put a lot of effort into selecting the roaster we use and beyond that, working with that roaster to come up with a signature taste that is Deep South.”
Jake or Kristy are at the store almost all of the time. Their children – 9, 7, 5 and 2 – usually tag along, the oldest reaching deep into the bottom of the display freezer to serve pops or hand a guest a cup of Sweet Magnolia gelato or ice cream. A handful of Belhaven and Millsaps students are helping to alleviate some of the workload, but Jake, a people person, doesn’t mind.
“We spent so long on the build-out, just us working, alone, wondering what it would be like full of people. It’s kind of unreal: when we opened the door the first time, it was like 30 strangers in your house. But we quickly got over it and realized how wonderful it is to welcome the community in. This is a dream fulfilled – and it’s going wonderfully.”
In the fall of 2016, the Franklins opened a second location at Highland Village, the former Crazy Cat location (the Cat moved to Canton Mart Square). Originally set to be a pop-up until January 31, 2017, the shop has endured, responsible in many ways for kicking off the flurry of activity that now fills their adjacent courtyard many times monthly. Deep South participates in the center’s Bend and Brew, Trivia and Fam Friday events and has become a hub, a respite for Highland Village office tenants who linger over a coffee, laptop in tow.
Suggestions? Try the Creole Crème Cheesecake or key lime pie. A buttermilk pop pairs well with Mexican Cola, Fanta – even espresso or beer.
Deep South Pops is open seven days a week, 6 a.m.-9 p.m., at center court at Highland Village and 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. at 1800 North State Street in neighboring Belhaven.