Valeria Khislavsky woke up in the middle of the night last summer with an idea: she was going to sell pudding. It was a mysterious vision, she says. She didn't have any particular attachment to pudding as a child; she isn't obsessed with pudding pop pitchman Bill Cosby. But it was, in a way, perfectly logical.
After graduating from Brown University with a double concentration in Visual Art and Italian Studies — and after stints living in Vermont, New Hampshire, and South America — Khislavsky had vowed to come back to Providence to start a small business. She considered opening a chocolate shop, but quickly saw that there wasn't much room for a newcomer. Pudding, however, had potential.
Khislavsky's vision became reality this past Saturday at the Pawtucket Springtime Farmer's Market. In a room ringed by entrepreneurs hawking maple syrup, crepes, mixed nuts, and artisan coffee, she stood happily behind a modified vintage ice cream cart. A bright pink plastic popsicle stuck up from the back and a small chalkboard reading "Today's Flavors: Classic Chocolate, $2.75. RI Coffee Milk, $2.75" rested nearby. Inside the cart was a stash of pudding pops that steadily diminished over the course of the day. The fiddle music drifting from an Irish folk trio in the room was punctuated by the sound of crinkling plastic as customers unwrapped their treats. PVD Pudding Pops was officially open for business.
Khislavsky alternates between "I" and "we" in telling the story of how her business came to be. She is the sole owner of the company, she explains, and she currently makes all of the pops herself. But without the help of local collaborators, the project never would have happened. "It's been a process of discovery of all of this local talent," she says.
Her milk and cream is delivered weekly by Rhody Fresh. The laser-cutting for her plastic popsicle, the welding on her ice cream cart, the dry ice that keeps her pops cool, the kitchen space where she makes her treats, the labels printed for the pops — it's all local. She also met her accountant and lawyer through local small business development workshops and she is currently working on high-tech modifications with engineering students and professors at Brown: a plug-in mobile cooling system and a pedal-powered string of lights to attract nighttime sales.
The preparation hasn't all been serious, though. She boasts of a "zealous core group of taste-testers" who gathered to sample butterscotch and rice pudding flavors and offer feedback on the company's name. "We had a naming session, but it just turned into, 'I made some food and bought some beer,'" she says. She was left with a pad of paper with over a hundred potential names scratched on it, including "Boys In the Pudd," "Pudding Pants," "Puddin' On the Ritz," and "Puddophile."
The name she settled on — PVD Pudding Pops — was proudly displayed on a banner behind her station at the farmer's market on Saturday and there was a steady stream of customers approaching the cart with cash in hand.
"The pop is nice and creamy and I wasn't quite sure what to expect," said Sarah Ekerholm, a program evaluator with the state department of health, between bites of a chocolate pop. "It's kinda bringing me back to my childhood."