Paletas are made for summer.
The ring of a bell or the honk of a horn means something sweet in Columbia Park and east Pasco. A paletero — or ice cream man — is riding his bike with an ice box full of the treats.
Built inside an old meat factory, the Romero family churns out about 4,500 paletas each day at the brightly painted building on West Lewis St.
For Jesus Romero, 63, of Pasco, how he built his business is still up for debate. He says it just happened.
His family argues Romero knows the value of hard work. He spends most days working at La Jalpita.
“I feel good about my business,” Romero said in Spanish.
His own name
La Jalpita is named after the Mexican city, Jalpa, Zacatecas. It’s a tribute to the roots of the Romero family, who are from the area.
Almost all of Jesus’ family is involved with the business’ daily operations.
Paletas are simple — fruit, flavor and milk or water. La Jalpita focuses on fresh to set themselves apart, said Jessica Romero, his daughter-in-law.
“Everything is made from scratch here,” she said.
Romero said people keep coming back simply because their paletas are good.
“These are his recipes,” said Ivan Romero, Jessica’s husband and Romero’s son. “He sells everything under his own name.”
La Jalpita sells paletas across the Northwest while reaching as far as Wyoming.
Building a paleta isn’t like making a homemade popsicle.
The assembly line to create them can’t miss a beat or the whole process gets interrupted. The process begins at 6 a.m. and usually ends around noon each weekday.
“It’s all so fast-paced,” Jessica Romero said. “It has to be.”
Starting with the recipes, the family makes ice pop filling, which is then poured into metal molds.
The mold is put into a tank filled with cold salt water. When removed, the colorful pops are removed and placed in tubs, Jessica Romero said.
The pops are donned in plastic wrap with a La Jalpita logo and put in the freezer.
At $1 for each paleta and 25 flavors, visitors come in and fill plastic bags full of the frozen treats.
Flavors ranging from coconut, lime and strawberry cheesecake to the more unique chamoy, mango con chile and rice, fill freezers at the shop.
“Every year is an increase,” Jessica Romero said. “We’re cheaper. We’re better.”
The business is open seven months a year. This year, it’ll close on Halloween.
The future of the shop will always depend on family, Jessica Romero said.
Romero said he plans to retire soon, and hopes his children and family will continue his work.
“It’s up to my family to use their minds and make it grow,” Jesus said.