How to Build a Supercity with POP ROC’s Jason Hilton

Could you introduce yourself and describe the inspirations behind POP ROC?

My name is Jason Hilton, and I’m one of the partners at Pop Roc. Before starting the business, I went down to the office every day in a suit and tie. My employees were all my age and like-minded, and we’d read and talk about comics and what we would see on WWE the night before. Once an hour we would leave and get a coffee or a monster energy drink. So, because of the way that technology is today, we decided that we could work from a coffee shop, which made us think ‘why don’t we open a place for people like us?’

My partner Colin who was a part of WWE doesn’t drink coffee, but he really likes monsters, and I thought “why isn’t there a place like a coffee shop that isn’t a coffee shop?” All these ideas started rolling around, and it would have been the size of a football field if we had it my way. It was going to have stages and a little theatre, and there would be a reading room and a video game room, and this large idea came out of this thought. And then, of course thinking about how much this would all cost, reality set in and we had to boil it down.

What makes your business unique?

The biggest thing that makes us unique is the experience. When you’re walking in, you’re going to hear vibrant, fun music. Typically some digi music or some 80s pop or 90s pop, it’s something that invokes a feeling of positivity. We have bottled Saturday morning. There’s TV on, and there’s cereal, and there’s just this vibe that today is going to be a really cool day.

What products do you offer at POP ROC?

We carry a whole line of comic books: Marvel, DC, Image, whether it be mainstream or alternative brands which is pretty unique for a place like a coffee shop. We do carry coffee which is provided by Fifth Frame, a fantastic single origin roaster. Then we have Canaltown who have been in Rochester for thirty years, and we’re the only coffee shop in town who carries Death Wish, the strongest coffee in the world. At Pop Roc, we believe that sometimes people just want to go out, have fun, and eat sugar. So, we have our caffeinated alternatives which include our selection of mocktails. We take monster energy drinks, and we mix them up with other wild ingredients like Sprite or Swedish Fish or even gummy worms.

We’re also doing a lot of fun things with cereal, and at this point, we have about twenty-five different kinds. We mix them with things like cookie dough, chocolate chips, pop rocs, nerds, or cotton candy. Then, we can take any of those combos for cereals and turn them into milkshakes. Can’t choose just one combination? We also offer cereal floats, so if you want to try a couple, we’ll do a flight of three, and we’ll put those into cups as opposed to bowls.

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