This Dad Left His Marketing Job to Sell Popsicles

“Wow. I really wish I could spend more time with my kids,” said no parent during the pandemic, ever. Except for Jesse Reilly, a New Orleans dad who left his marketing job of 15 years to make popsicles and spend—you guessed it—more time with his kids as the proprietor of the sweetest speakeasy in NOLA.

Realizing he wanted to make a career change that would allow him to spend more time with his three kids (all under the age of five), he started making popsicles with local Ingredients and intriguing flavor combinations to share with his Bywater neighbors. As his business grew, he had to get creative about how to sell Big O’s Pops while taking care of his kids. Enter the Popsicle Doorbell at 1201 St. Roch St., Reilly’s home. Surrounded by chalk drawings of popsicles and other preschool-aged illustrations, the mystical doorbell intrigued passersby and friends alike—could you really pass up ringing a bell with a sign over it that says “Popsicle Doorbell?”—who would stop for a sweet treat while out for a walk or a ride.

“The doorbell idea really came out of convenience and then COVID happened,” he told VeryLocal.com. “It became a way to sell pops while practicing social distancing.” The popsicles are individually packaged and purchased outdoors via Venmo for $3-$4 a pop (pup pops for your pooches are $2 each). The whole operation allowed the neighborhood to stay connected safely, at a distance. And though his popsicle domination strategy slowed, as did all business concepts during the pandemic, the doorbell allowed his pops to gain some serious street cred. It became the neighborhood’s own quirky secret—remaining secret as only something can during an age of social media: about 5 minutes.

Now, you can catch him selling his popsicles around the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans out of the cooler of a custom adult tricycle, catering events and popping up at events and festivals around town. You’ll soon find him as one of the first vendors in the funky and kid-friendly community space Krewe of Red Beans, which is dedicated to New Orleans and the city’s unique, vibrant culture. If it’s a culture of dads looking for ways to spend more time with their kids, popsicle doorbells and adult bikes with frozen treats in the custom attached cooler, we can see why it needs a dedicated space.

Big O’s Original Pops is scaling up, so don’t be surprised if you recognize them somewhere in your neck of the woods one day. Using local ingredients and popsicle molds in his freezer at first, Reilly now employs a “professional machine that freezes them quickly.” And while his business has grown, he still sources as many ingredients as he can from local farms and businesses. For instance, his blood orange pops are made with fruit from Isabelle’s Orange Orchard in Algiers.

It’s no surprise that the man who gave up a career to dive into something new says that he’s always open to ideas and up for a challenge. “Coming up with new popsicle flavors is part of the fun,” he says. Indeed it is.

—Shelley Massey
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