words/photos: Jim Wills
The oppressive heat of summer is upon us and we Front Range dwellers have lots of options when it comes to dialing back our internal thermostats. A dip in a pool or local reservoir may do the trick. Or stop on in at any of the ever-growing rocky mountain tap rooms and get a cold one. The myriad of ice cream and fro-yo shops provide sweet treats for cooling the swelter.
Then there is Aiko Pops (pronounced îko.) If you are lucky enough to see a popsicle bike emblazoned with the Aiko Pops logo at your local farmer’s market or food truck gathering, get in line. They are some of the most refreshing and unique popsicle flavors to cool down an overheated summer palate.
Or take your summer refreshment one step further and stop into the Aiko Pops sandwich shop located at 1284 S Pearl St in Denver and select from an ever-changing assortment of handmade artisan sandwiches, soups, aqua frescos and of course… Aiko Pops!
The evolving brainchild of entrepreneur Christopher Mosera, Aiko Pops is the adventure he never planned to take, but was always the one he wanted.
Moving to Colorado 6 years ago, Mosera came to the Mile High City as many folks employed by Corporate America do, he was offered a new position in a new market. But it was the desire for a little more control over his life, his income and his free time that led him jump the corporate ship and swim in the entrepreneurial waters.
Mosera is a self-prescribed restaurant rat. “It’s what I know.” He stated recently in an exclusive interview with CRAVE Magazine.
“I love working in a restaurant atmosphere. Whether, cooking or waiting tables or bartending. I love it all. It’s in my blood. It’s part of me.”
As a rep for a large meat and cheese distributor in Atlanta, Mosera was offered a job heading up the company’s expansion to the Great American West. After a time in the Centennial State he realized the need for more freedom over his evenings and weekends. So he started up a company that would allow him to control his time off—at least in theory.
Aiko Pops is named after The Dixie Cups’ song Iko Iko, but more importantly, influenced by a love for the jam version played at countless Grateful Dead shows. Taking some liberty with the spelling, Mosera set out to create a market where none existed before. Aiko Pops was born.
“I just figured I’d get a cooler bike, travel around to outdoor events and sell some pops.” Mosera muses.
His advantage as a chef is though he has 20 plus year’s experience working in some of the finest restaurants with some great mentors, Mosera never went through formal training.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he calls it. “I have none of the traditional schooling, so I’m not limited to pre-conceived notions of flavor combinations. I know what I love and I try combinations that work in other types of food. Most of the time they work great. Sometimes, not so great.”
Going to summer markets and food truck events, Mosera found an audience. Then he found he needed a space to store is expanding empire and make his pops. He found the place he was looking for on S. Pearl Street in Denver.
“Initially it was going to be a place I could just hand out with my bros.” states Mosera “We were going to put in a half-pipe across the space, hang our surf boards and chil out.”
He decided to set up a sandwich shop to help keep the doors open. But word spread about his unique menu and approach to great artisan sandwiches and Aiko Pops began to take on a life of its own.
‘We found that people really dug what we were doing and we were loving doing it.”
At Aiko Pops everything and we mean everything, is made from scratch. The menu, like the flavors of their pops, is constantly changing. There are sandwich styles, but the actual ingredients are constantly in flux. For example, The Bird is always a sandwich based on meat with wings, The Cow is beef based and The Farm is a vegan sammie or salad. After that, anything goes.
“We smoke our own, we slow-roast our own, we do everything but grow and raise our own.” mentions Mosera during the interview. “Any fresher and you’d have to slap us.”
Starting with a base meat, the sandwich will then be created. That particular sammie will stay on the menu till the staff decides on something new.
“We keep sandwiches around till something new decides to find its way onto the menu. That could be a couple of weeks or a couple of months.”
This ever changing menu began with the Aiko Pops themselves.
“We are constantly changing flavors,” Mosera comments on the pops. “Each is a small batch of only 110. Really popular flavors may come back around, but it usually will take a couple of months.”
Expanding that concept not only to the sandwich menu, the Aiko Pops shop also has an ever changing selection of soups and aqua frescos, all made from scratch. Even the back patio is original, as Mosera has recruited local artist friends to create art pieces to adorn the Aiko walls.
Aiko Pops can also be hired out for events and weddings. Be sure to follow them on social media, and check out the video below for more about Aiko Pops from Christopher Mosera himself!