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Photos by David Benthal

Photos by David Benthal

In mid-spring, after a long day at school, 15-year-old Brae Iglesias rides his bike alongside his parents, making his way from their Greenport home to a nearby commercial kitchen. There, a bucket of lemons and limes awaits him as he pulls back his long blonde hair with a blue bandana. With his father at his side, he begins cutting up the fresh fruit, embarking on the season’s first batch of popsicles for their family-owned paletas company, Dos Ositos Paletas.

Founded in 2020 by Brae and his older sister Osa, Dos Ositos Paletas sells small-batch Mexican-style ice pops made with all-natural ingredients, like fresh fruit and organic cane sugar. Whenever possible, the Iglesias family sources their fruit locally, using the “ugly fruit” from orchards like Wickham’s Fruit Farm and Treiber Farms.

“The ugly fruit is the sweetest and the ripest,” explained co-founder Kristian Iglesias, father of Brae and Osa.

From their creamy pineapple-coconut bars to their refreshing raspberry-hibiscus ice pops, Dos Ositos Paletas’ frozen creations have quickly become a sought-after summer treat across the North Fork. The fruity popsicles have found their way into the freezers of local grocers and the hearts of beachgoers at spots like Little Creek’s Sunshine Shack at Orient Beach State Park.

“They’re hard to keep in stock,” said Travis Zurawski, a partner in the Sunshine Shack. “Our chef Josue might be their number one fan.” The frozen treat company started as a way to keep Brae and Osa occupied during the coronavirus pandemic. Like many others who were stuck at home, the Iglesias family used their shared love of cooking to ease their boredom and bring them comfort.

The inspiration for making paletas came from a visit to New York City’s High Line, where the family stumbled upon Fany Gerson’s iconic paletas cart, La Newyorkina. Intrigued by the interesting flavor combinations and refreshing taste of her Mexican-style ice pops, they purchased her paletas recipe book and decided to try their hand at making the frozen treats themselves.

“We didn’t even know how to demold them,” chuckled Kristian

Iglesias. “We were demolding them one at a time in the sink.” Since then, he has mastered the technique of using a warm water bath to release the pops from the molds all at once.

With an abundance of time on their hands at home during the pandemic, the Iglesias family delved deeper into their newfound hobby, experimenting and refining recipes until they crafted their own unique creations.

Determined to share their treats and put a smile on people’s faces during the pandemic, Brae and Osa seized the opportunity to start a small popsicle cart. The sibling duo worked together to create a vibrant logo and clever name for their new venture. Dos Ositos, which means “two little bears” in Spanish, pays homage to the siblings: “Osa” means bear in Spanish, and “Brae” is an anagram for bear.

They first approached family friend Matt Michel, the owner of 1943 Pizza Bar in Greenport, and pitched him their plan to set up their paletas cart at his storefront. With Michel’s approval, the Iglesias family got to work. Supporting their children’s new venture, Kristian Iglesias built a freezer cart while his wife, Nadira Vlaun, designed a colorful chalkboard sign to grab the attention of passersby. Masked up and ready, family members took turns standing outside 1943 Pizza Bar on Saturdays, selling their paletas to the pizza parlor’s customers.

“It took off pretty fast,” explained Kristian Iglesias. “Everyone loved it.”

As demand continued to grow, Dos Ositos Paletas expanded its reach. They started hosting pop-ups at locations around the North Fork, including Little Creek, Goodfood. , Orient Country Store and First and South, and began offering local delivery and catering for parties. Last summer, they even had the opportunity to share their popsicles at a party for renowned late-night television host Jimmy Fallon, earning the celebrity’s seal of approval.

“There’s such a sense of gratification from giving somebody joy — I don’t think there’s been one time where they haven’t put a smile on somebody’s face.”

Kristian Iglesias

To meet rising demand, they moved to a commercial kitchen and upgraded their equipment with a new paletas maker capable of producing up to 120 pops per hour.

“As a mom, it’s so amazing how organically this all developed,” said Vlaun. “I don’t think any of us expected it to grow into this and it’s so beautiful.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” added Brae. “I love my family and we’ve always been really close. This is awesome because I’m getting a lot of experience with people I’m comfortable with.”

Besides providing a way for Brae and Osa to stay engaged during the pandemic, Dos Ositos Paletas has offered them valuable learning experiences in hard work and entrepreneurship.

“This whole process has given us opportunities for us to pass on our knowledge to our kids,” said Vlaun. A graphic designer, she says she’s used the business to teach her kids about design, supporting them with their paletas company’s packaging and website design.

With Osa now off to college, Brae has taken on the role of leading the company.

“My dad’s been mentoring me and helping me out on the business side of everything,” added Brae. “He’s been showing me how to run a business, helping make decisions and really showing me the ropes.”

“Everything has to go through Brae,” Kristian Iglesias said. Throughout, he has ensured that Brae is involved in all aspects of the business, from pricing to pitching the family’s popsicles to wholesale partners.

“They are such a beautiful tight-knit family that is working super hard as a unit to make this business work. Kristian and Nadira are allowing their kids to learn real lessons about hard work and entrepreneurship,” said Zurawski. “The products are authentic, just like the people behind the product.”

“They are the most genuine, thoughtful family and it’s been so fun following them on this journey,” added Matt Michel.

In mid-February, Brae took the initiative to launch a Kickstarter campaign aimed at securing funds for a new minivan. This compact Japanese vehicle, equipped with freezers and battery packs, would play a pivotal role in expanding Dos Ositos Paletas’ delivery services and catering events.

The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive: Within two weeks, the family surpassed their goal of $12,500, garnering an impressive $14,310.

With this successful fundraising effort, the family has set their sights on further expansion, particularly into other local markets such as IGA grocery stores and areas on the South Fork.

I feel very humbled in a way. I am so lucky to be able to do this,” said Brae.

It’s super therapeutic,” his father added. “There’s such a sense of gratification from giving somebody joy — I don’t think there’s been one time where they haven’t put a smile on somebody’s face.”

Dos Ositos Paletas’ frozen treats can be enjoyed across the East End at various locations, including Sunshine Shack, Children’s Museum of the East End, Lombardi’s Love Lane Market, Beds and Borders, IGA Greenport, Lucharitos in Center Moriches, Orient Country Store, Silver Sands, and Share the Harvest. For updates on the locations of their pop-up carts, follow them on Instagram at @ dos_ositos_paletas.