Pops of colours, varying popsicle flavours, happy faces and good reviews could be seen in ever-increasing frequency on Instagram posts about experiences at Chill Pops in Negril. Naturally, Thursday Food had to get the story behind why this chill spot was popping.
Chill Pops was started by Damir Tufail. On a visit to the United States he came across a popsicle stand, didn't think much of it, but after being encouraged to try it he was hit by the taste and took notice that he had to wait in line.
"Immediately I started thinking how this could be 'Jamaicanised'. We have fruits to make the popsicles with all-natural flavours, and given a Brand Jamaica touch it would be a hit," Damir recalled.
With assistance from family and friends Damir literally started building Chill Pops by hand, bartering future gains and eventual exposure for works to be carried by contractors.
"I went and secured the wood for the space, built the chairs and tables, but I always maintained that I wanted a brand that was 100 per cent Jamaican, a brand for the people — that meant everything that could be sourced locally was done [in Jamaica]. Eventually, we were ready to open and in that same week the country was placed on lockdown due to the [novel coronavirus] pandemic. I would come at times just to clean the counters and go back home; it was devastating. Some amount of normalcy returned and we just haven't looked back since," Damir added.
He stressed that opening during the pandemic has been stressful with prices constantly rising and uncertainty in the economy at times, but he has kept his quality and price point to this date.
"I have had raw material prices as much as double over the period, but we have been absorbing those costs. Our commitment to using the best ingredients is a key feature, and we listen to our customers — whatever they don't like that's what we change. From inception we have been tinkering with the offerings and customers appreciate that we listen to them. Customer service is a high-value asset for our business," Damir stated.
Damir is on a path of expansion fuelled by a genuine love for all things Jamaican. Opening other avenues for distribution is in development as he hunts for another location in Montego Bay — and moving further east is also on the horizon. Pop-up shops at hotels, and catering for weddings and parties are also in the making.
— Text & Photos by Aceion Cunningham
Address: The Boardwalk Shopping Village, Norman Manley Blvd, Negril