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VOICES: Refusing to let a pandemic cause her business to melt

Katie Tabeling

Janine Crawford infront of the display cabinet at Pop In Artisan Pops | PHOTO C/O Pop in Artisan Pops

No one can say that Janine Crawford’s first year opening Pop In Artisan Pops in Middletown was a dull one.

“When you open your own business, you have high expectations and hopes,” Crawford said. “But the area has really embraced me because what I have is so unique.”

Pop In Artisan Pops, which offers handcrafted ice pops, opened for business in July 2019. What sets the business apart from store-brand ice cream is Crawford’s passion for sweets and using all-natural ingredients. Pops are sweetened with cane sugar or honey, and fresh fruit can be found in fruit-flavored treats.

“My grandmother always made wedding cakes and I loved sweets,” she said. “Eventually, you start pushing your boundaries. I started to study how to make gelato and sorbet, and here we are.”

Crawford did expect a slowdown in the winter. That is why she introduced liege waffles and hot chocolate to keep customers coming back in colder weather. But what she did not expect was a pandemic triggering an economic recession.

“It’s really hard to tell what the difference in business this season is because we weren’t open last March,” she said. “I’m not really sure what’s ahead to be honest, but you position yourself the best you can.”

When Delaware started to shut down, Crawford refocused her efforts. She started to revamp her website to offer online sales for take-out. She doubled down on her social media and online presence. Some of it came at an added expense, but it is the price of doing business in the new normal.

“There are some added fees with takeout, with the boxes and charges through the system,” she said. “But without leveraging my platform, I wouldn’t be able to do curbside service as I’m doing now. If I waited, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Now that summer is here, Crawford is prepared for the heat to drive more customers craving a cool snack. People can walk in and order, but the dining area is still closed for sit-down service.

But she is not going to sweat it. Instead, she is going to try and stay positive.

“You never know what comes up as a small business owner,” she said. “You have to be willing to try new things and be as agile as possible.”

-Katie Tabeling


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