Mexican ice pop shop’s icy treats keep you cool on hot days

For 28 years, Paleteria La Jalpita has been handcrafting icy Mexican treats on a stick in downtown Pasco.

“We have six pots a day, with each pot producing 800 paletas, for 4,800 total paletas a day,” said Rom Romero, whose dad, Jesus Romero, owns the shop.

Paletas are Mexican ice pops that come in a rainbow of colors and flavors, often boasting a richer flavor profile than the sugary treats-on-a-stick found in traditional grocery store freezers.

Rom Romero stands next to his family’s store, Paleteria La Jalpita, at 202 W. Lewis St. in Pasco. (Photo by Jeff Morrow)

Rom, 31, is one of the many from the Romero family who helps make them.

In La Jalpita’s kitchen, workers staff an assembly line starting around 6 a.m. and wrapping up around noon, Monday through Friday.

They feed ice cream into molds, which are dropped into cold saltwater tanks. They’re then pulled out and wrapped in plastic before going into a freezer.

Altogether, La Jalpita offers 26 different flavors, ranging from the more traditional lime, vanilla, chocolate and coffee, to the more unusual hibiscus, tamarind, chamoy, pistachio, egg nog and chile pepino.

Customers have their favorites.

Children seem to enjoy the bubble gum flavor the most, Rom said.

“For adults, it’s tied between strawberry and coconut,” he said. “Coconut is really great. We use shreds of coconut in it.”

La Jalpita, which operates from a bright yellow building at 202 W. Lewis St. in downtown Pasco, sells them for $1 each, or $10.50 for 15. The shop also sells other cool treats, like bolis (ice cream in a tube), raspados (shaved ice) and ice cream in a cone or cup.

The Pasco shop also doubles as the distribution center.

Altogether, Rom said the family employs 10 people to work the assembly line and front counter.

But there are others.

On a recent day, Rom talked about a relative making deliveries to the Port Angeles area and another taking care of the Walla Walla region. Deliveries are sent as far away as Wyoming.

Locally, employees make sure the grocery stores and gas stations have plenty of supply.

La Jalpita also employs two men who spend their summers walking around Pasco with carts filled with paletas, ringing bells to draw attention.

“One of them has worked for us for 12 years doing that,” Rom said.

The historic heat wave that baked the state in early July helped to improve the family business.

“You walk in the freezer back there where we store everything, but the things fly out of there in the summer,” Rom said.

Even in winter, when the store shuts down, Rom says people still want their paletas.

“Everybody craves ice cream,” he said. “And when it gets to 70 degrees and is sunny, we open up.”

Expansion could be on the way.

“We’re trying to start something in the Caldwell/Nampa area,” Rom said.

He said the family bought a Fresno store earlier this year. “My youngest brother runs that one,” he said.

Jesus’ cousin, Ramon, started his own ice cream store in Los Angeles.

“And then he opened a second store in Fresno,” Rom said. “He asked my dad if he wanted to start one. He had all of the recipes.”

Adventurous foodies may be interested in sampling Paleteria La Jalpita’s more unusual paleta flavors like hibiscus, tamarind, chamoy, pistachio, egg nog and chile pepino. (Photo by Kristina Lord)

All of his children have either worked, or are working, in the business.

Jesus is a quiet man who’d rather not talk to the media. Instead, he throws himself into the work.

Rom said he grew up around the store.

“I remember running around here as a 5-year-old,” he said. “My dad would grumble and say, ‘This is not a day care.’ ”

La Jalpita opened in 1993 in Pasco at its current location.

The store is named after Jalpa in the Mexican state of Zacatecas — where the family is from.

The Romeros come from big families.

“There are 16 siblings on my mom Rosa’s side,” Rom said. “And there are eight siblings on my dad’s side.”

Rom’s parents met while working the fields in Fresno. He got a taste of what they went through back then.

“I’ve worked in landscaping and in the fields, helping harvest in Hawaii,” he said. “I know what they went through.”

It’s another reason he’s decided these past few years to dive into the family business.

Jesus is 65, and he still works every day, “but my dad is tired, and that’s why I’m here to help,” Rom said.

Rom wants to continue the paleta legacy.

“It’s not just about making the product,” he said. “It’s about family and roots … and it’s turned into the American Dream.”

La Jalpita: 202 W. Lewis St., Pasco; 509-545-9551; www.la-jalpita.business.site.

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