When Tyson and Betsy Yirak first launched Champion City Pops
in April 2021, they started with a folding table, a couple portable freezers and a chalkboard business sign.
What a difference two years makes.
The Springfield natives - who worked around the country, then moved back to Clark County shortly before launching the business - have been dedicated to building their brand and recently announced the opening of a brick and mortar shop in Downtown Springfield.
“It’s been fast – most businesses don’t grow this fast,” Betsy says. “But lots of people were excited when we were doing the Market at Mother’s, so we were able to grow quickly.”
The Downtown location will be at 25 N. Fountain Ave., right next door to Charlo’s Provisions & Eatery
in the storefronts connected to the Park at the 99 garage.
The Yiraks are bringing their signature handcrafted popsicles that started their business, and will be adding two new treats, which observant followers spotted right away in their updated business logo.
“We posted a picture of the keys about a month ago … then we posted the sign in front of the building a couple days ago, and it blew up like gangbusters, and we really weren’t expecting it,” Tyson says.
Champion City Pops, Sweets & Treats
– as the new location will be named – will also feature rolled ice cream and boba tea. The Yiraks are hoping to open the shop in time to be part of the May 5 First Friday.
Boba tea options will include a variety of teas or lemonade that can be flavored and paired with tapioca-like flavored boba pearls or juice-filled popping boba pearls, Betsy says.
The rolled ice cream will be offered in five or six flavors, and special signature flavors will be offered weekly or monthly, she says.
“I think we’ve found our niche,” says Tyson, a graduate of Catholic Central High School
. “No one else around here is doing this. That’s initially how the popsicles started, and we wanted to expand that to our brick and mortar.”
Betsy, a Shawnee High School
grad, attended culinary school and has worked in multiple restaurants and for catering companies, including Springfield’s former Simply Delicious, and she co-owned a restaurant in Columbus for a time.
The experience helps her when putting new popsicle flavors together.
“I might have an idea for a flavor, but she’s the one who creates it,” Tyson says. “It’s the entrepreneur in me to have a lot of ideas, but she’s the one who really makes it happen.”
In the past two years, Champion City Pops expanded from its start at the Market at Mother’s. Patrons could find them many places both in stationary freezers and in their food truck – at the Summer Arts Festival
, in Champion City Guide & Supply
, at Northwestern’s Youth Soccer
fields – and special boozy pops were fan favorites at both The Market Bar
and Mother Stewart’s Brewery
Through the many places Yiraks took their frozen treats, they established not only their brand but important relationships within the community.
One of those, Tyson says, has been with Kevin Loftis, co-owner of Mother Stewart’s.
The support from Loftis, he says, “has been amazing. He’s been a huge advocate of ours.”
The Yiraks also praised the City of Springfield and downtown development arm SpringForward for working with them to help secure the Downtown space that was previously occupied by Alcony Weavers
. And, they say Danielle and James Chapman – owners of Warrior Nutrition
– have been essential to them taking the leap to lock into the new location.
“I grew up not seeing Springfield being a happening place. I only heard stories of what it used to be like,” Betsy says. “Now, there’s a lot to do here, and I’m so thankful to be back. … It’s nice to see this community growing positively again.”
The Yiraks are excited to be part of that positive growth and are ready to be among the Downtown business community.
“We haven’t even opened our doors yet, and we’ve been welcomed with huge open arms,” Tyson says, adding that business owners from up and down Fountain Avenue and surrounding Downtown streets have reached out with positive words.
“We’ll be part of a Downtown evening now, part of the full circle from drinks to appetizers to dinner to dessert, and being part of the DORA makes it even more special.”
Tyson says they are seeking a liquor license for Champion City Pops, Sweets & Treats so they can once again offer their boozy popsicles, and possibly even boozy boba or boozy rolled ice cream options in the future.
Patrons of the new shop also will find “sweets and treats” from a variety local homebakers and vendors.
“We’ll have a ‘Support Local’ area of the shop where we can sell goods that people have made,” Tyson says. “We’ll try to sell things along the lines of the Farmer’s Market, and we can add things as we grow.”
Cotton candy, baked goods, olive oil, and fresh bread are among the things the Yiraks currently are connecting with local vendors for, and they say anyone interested can reach out by email at [email protected]
The couple support each other’s roles in the growing business sweetly, with Betsy giving Tyson and his marketing background credit for the vision for the business coming to fruition. And, Tyson shows gratitude for Betsy’s role in building edible creations out of those ideas.
“It’s a testament to our relationship and our marriage, really,” Tyson says. “It has made our marriage fun doing something like this together.”
And their three kids – who they say share their own menu ideas and enjoy being taste testers – are also excited to see the goal of a brick and mortar shop coming to life.
“They’re stoked,” Tyson says. “They love it. They always want to see what’s going on next for the shop, and what’s on the menu.”
Tyson says the full-circle moment of opening a shop in Downtown – just across the street from where he recalls spending time at the former location of his favorite childhood store, Meek’s Sporting Goods – is not lost on either of the Yiraks. They’re determined to take time to appreciate the experience as they continue pursuing their dreams with Champion City Pops, Sweets & Treats.
“For me, it’s surreal and nostalgic,” Tyson says. “If you’d have told 15-year-old me that 30 years from now I would have a shop across the street, I would never have believed it.”