Andy McCarthy, ruler of King of Pops’ Charleston empire, fills us in on his cool job
Mango, habañero, watermelon, and Mexican chocolate: Take ingredients like these, blend, and freeze. Now make 4,000 to 8,000 popsicles a week and sell them via pushcart all over town—from a regular post on Anson Street to farmers markets and special events. You’ve just learned the basics behind King of Pops’ thriving sweet treat enterprise. We caught up with Andy McCarthy, leader of the local empire (the company’s now in six Southern cities!), at Marion Square, where you’ll often find him manning a cart on Saturdays.
CM: What made you jump ship on your 9-5 and help start King of Pops?
AM: My buddy Steve Carse got laid off from AIG in 2010, so he and his brother, Nick—a lawyer at the time—decided to start King of Pops in Atlanta. I’d grown up there and wanted to move to Charleston, so after helping out part-time during their first season, I quit my full-time job in industrial equipment sales and expanded the business to the Lowcountry.
CM: How did your boss at the time react when you quit to sell popsicles?
AM: He was like, “What the hell are you thinking?!” I couldn’t disagree with him, it did sound ridiculous.
CM: Is it a good gig for meeting ladies?
AM: I used to bartend and thought that was a good way to meet ladies...this gig makes bartending look silly in that respect. But I recently got engaged—I’m not looking!
CM: How do you develop new flavors?
AM: A lot of our pops are based on cocktails. We try to attract as many adults as possible, and people love associating a healthy treat with an alcoholic bev. But we also just mix and taste stuff we have around the kitchen, or a farmer we work with will say, ”Oh, we got a bunch of good basil in,“ so we play with that.
CM: What should we expect from you guys this summer?
AM: Our kitchen is in a building in Park Circle where artists, makers, and a couple bands have studios. At the end of June, we’re starting to do open house parties on Sundays. Everyone will be showing off their goods, and we’ll be doing brewery-style tastings—five bucks lets you try everything.
CM: Have any summer travel plans?
AM: I went to Bonnaroo to sling pops!
Craving a popsicle now? To find a King of Pops stand, click here. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter for updates on their next open house event and more.
To read more interviews with local folks, click here.