Just in time for our first real heat of summer, there's a new cool spot in the Tri-Cities.
Rica's Frutaletas & Ice Cream opened in Columbia Center mall just a few days ago offering icy treats on a stick and in cups.
The store's signature pops are all fruit-flavored. And made with just fresh fruits, water and -- if the fruit needs some added sweetness -- a dash of sugar. That's it.
"We've all tried them and love them," said mall General Manager Barbara Johnson. Her personal favorite: mango-strawberry.
Other flavors include coconut, watermelon, lime, pineapple, strawberry-kiwi and strawberry-colada-lime. Traditional Mexican flavors like chili lime and tamarind also are available.
This is the second store for the owners, Alma and Ricardo Barajas of Othello. They opened their first shop in 2003, and five years later, business was so brisk they expanded into a 4,200-square-foot building on First Avenue.
"My husband used to make these fruit popsicles for our kids for their birthdays," said Alma Barajas. "People who tried them kept saying, 'You need to sell these.'"
So he did and they were an immediate hit with folks in the Othello area and beyond.
"We've had people drive up from the Tri-Cities to buy our popsicles and take them home in coolers," Barajas said.
The icy pops and ice cream bars are all made by her husband in their Othello shop.
He learned to make them as a kid growing up in Mexico where his parents ran a stand selling similar treats.
Alma Barajas lends a hand when necessary, but by day, Barajas, who's a chemist, works in her laboratory testing soils, seeds and plants.
"This is his thing. He's the only one who knows how to make them," she said.
Twice a week, ever since they opened the first shop, the couple have made the drive from Othello to the Tri-Cities to buy fruit. Last December, they happened to stop in at Columbia Center.
"We had been thinking about opening another and said to each other, this might be a good place. We already have customers from the Tri-Cities. We looked around, saw there was an empty space and went in to talk to the people in the office," she said.
"We were lucky. That was the only space we had open that's actually in the mall," Johnson said.
Their son, Ricky Barajas, manages the mall store, which has two other employees. The Othello location employs six.
Traditionally, the Othello shop closes for November and December. The mall shop will be open year-round. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.
Prices range from $1.80 to $5.
The Kennewick phone number is 736-3989.
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-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com