Knoxville's Very Own Paleteria: Pop Culture

It isn't just trucks that are selling their wares in parking lots around town—food carts are making an appearance too.

Jason Mitchell, 42, terms himself the "Chief Pop Officer," and he's the man behind Pop Culture, a new "Popsicle cart" that's been selling its wares at Ijams Nature Center and the Market Square Farmers' Market the past couple of months.

Technically, Pop Culture is a paleteria, a Latin American ice pop shop specializing in frozen confections made with whole fruit and sometimes cream. Mitchell has offered flavors like coffee, mango, pineapple chili, sweet potato, and cucumber mint, and he says that's only the beginning. In just a few weeks, Pop Culture will open a brick-and-mortar storefront on Main Street in the Medical Arts building.

So why brick-and-mortar? Mitchell says that for a seasonal business like ice pops, it makes sense to have a space where he can offer customers something besides frozen treats in the winter months. (Right now the plan is hot tea.) That, and the lack of places he can legally go with his cart.

"If vendor permits were open, I wouldn't have worried about the store," Mitchell says.

Like food trucks, food carts are prohibited from vending their wares on city streets and sidewalks and even parks. The hot dog man is the only exception to the ordinance—he was grandfathered in when the law changed several years back.

Still, Mitchell is excited about his new business, and he has big plans for the cart, too, including every upcoming festival you can think of.

"With the cart, people are happy to see you. I put smiles on their faces. It's wonderful," Mitchell says.