At her first weekend-long event with her new business, Clare Pearson realized she wasn’t fitting in.
At a cross-fit competition in Oakville, she was invited by a friend to sell her Mexican paletas, a traditional frozen pop.
"It wasn’t probably the best place for me," Pearson laughed. "Anything that deviates from meat and vegetables is too much of a treat for them."
Pearson didn’t sell out that weekend, but come this summer, her product, like any other frozen pops, should be a hot commodity.
Rudy’s is the newest addition to Hamilton’s ever-growing food truck community, offering up unique flavours like raspberry-basil, grapefruit-fennel or orange-ginger in her frozen, fruity goodness-on-a-stick.
"It's something that people can relate to," the 44-year-old Hamiltonian said. "Everyone enjoys a summer treat."
Pearson first became aquatinted with the traditional Mexican ice pop last summer, while in New York City at the Brooklyn Flea.
"I saw everyone walking around with these jewel-coloured fruit things and I found the vendor," she said. "It was a little bit of heaven on an extremely hot day."
One watermelon paleta (and a second lime paleta) later, Pearson was in love. Upon returning home to Hamilton, she tracked down the two paleta vendors she met in NYC and contacted both. They talked about their experiences, methodology and flavours.
Food filled with memories of childhood
Not long after, during a telephone call with a friend from her Dundas art studio – the first time she voiced her idea to someone else – Pearson decided to invest in a cart and become a paleta entrepreneur.
Pearson's cart is filled with memories of her childhood. She recalls fondly the summer days when she'd be away from home for hours and sharing popsicles with friends. Even the name of her cart comes from a childhood memory. Pearson grew up on the mountain, and wasn't allowed to cross the street to go to the convenience store.
"I was forbidden to cross the intersection so I had to hand my money over to my friends," she said. "All my focus was on what candy my friends would come back with. The store was called Rudy's."
Rudy was also the name of her dog, a friendly companion for many years.
An artist and "maker of things" by trade, Pearson was attracted to the idea of creating a product she could sell directly to her customer.
"There is a real divide these days with where you buy a product and how its made," she said. "With the market experience, you get to see the maker and talk about the process… like my experience in New York City."
Paletas at Sew Hungry
She looks forward to selling at festivals like Friday's Sew Hungry and markets across the city this summer, showing up with a cart full of paletas and being able to sit back and chat with her customers. She can also rub shoulders with the farmers who grew the fruit in her treats.
Pearson will draw flavour inspiration from the berries and stone fruits from local farmers, and also from classic cocktails that use herbs and mint and traditional recipes like Indian lassi. She's also not afraid to spice things up. One of Pearson's signature flavours right now is mango-chilli.
"It's interesting to watch people eat that," she said. "They get the mango, then lime and the heat at the end… They realize they've had something spicy."
Pearson realizes that the frozen ice pop is not something everyone would enjoy in the dead of winter, but she'd like to extend her business as far as she can into the off-season. She's planning some fall-inspired flavours already.
"I'm the type of person who could bite into a pop any time of year," she said. "I'll find a way."