Pete Cooney, Bus Ad ’10, brings pops to Milwaukee’s palate.
Cooney harbors no illusions that his side gig is anything but — still, it’s a cool take on fun. Cooney owns Pete’s Pops, an all-natural frozen fruit popsicle company that makes the summer rounds at Milwaukee farmers markets, street festivals and more.
He had the idea for fruity pops but didn’t pursue it until he met a vendor hawking a similar ware at a farmers market in his hometown of St. Louis. “It really started as only a concept, maybe even a joke,” says Cooney, who is assistant controller — full time — for Milwaukee’s Bartolotta Restaurants. “I thought it would be funny,” he says of making popsicles that have little in common with the highly sweetened frozen treats pushed by other vendors.
His first product was an avocado pop frozen for a friend’s July 4 party. Everyone raved.
Cooney was a finalist in the Milwaukee Area Technical College’s 2013 Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge. The next summer, pushing a blue- and yellow-accented paleteria, or pushcart, with a chalkboard describing the deliciously untraditional flavors of the day, he debuted Pete’s Pops on a street outside the Milwaukee Public Market in the Third Ward. “People didn’t know what to expect,” Cooney says of customers who took a taste. “At the heart of this is trying interesting food combinations.”
It shows. Cooney plays mixologist in his downtown Milwaukee commercial kitchen, combining fresh, seasonal ingredients to concoct fun flavors such as cantaloupe ginger, bourbon iced coffee and blackberry mint. His most popular pop since launching in 2014? Still that first avocado crowd pleaser. — Becky Dubin Jenkins