Oscar Islas, left, and Cesar Sandoval opened Paradise Flavors in Marathon. The storefront makes ice cream and sherbet concoctions served on a stick from fresh fruit. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

Brothers-in-law Cesar Sandoval and Oscar Islas have opened Paradise Flavors in Marathon. Located in a brightly striped pink and white building in the center of town, the inside features a cold case filled with fruit-based ice cream or sherbert on a stick, and some incredibly flavorful “fresh water,” or agua fresca. The front window facing the highway signals the treats inside with one word — paletas!

Paletas is Spanish for ice cream on a stick, or popsicle. It’s a nationwide trend — this latino take on all things fruit — and paleterias are opening all over the country. The key to the deliciousness is simplicity paired with real fruit — flavors that have more to do with artisan tradition rather than wild combinations of American junk food. 

Sandoval owns and operates Paradise Fruit in Marathon, and Islas is a third-generation ice cream maker. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, both were working construction.

“We were just throwing around ideas. I mentioned that we needed to do something with the overripe fruit from the produce stand,” Sandoval said. 

“My father and grandfather owned paleterias in Mexico,” said Islas. “In fact, the building’s painting is the traditional look for all ice cream shops in Mexico.”

At Paradise Flavors there’s market testing going on to determine the favorites. The mango is an early favorite, naturally, and Key lime, too; but so is the “dulce de leche” based on condensed milk with caramel accent. Some of the paletas will only be available when the fruit is in season. 

“We’re starting with the flavors that we know,” said Islas. 

The shop also carries a line of dairy-free sherbet popsicles that are also proving popular. At $1.50 to $2 each, this is a natural stop for any family. 

The agua fresca is a little more  — $4 a cup for a medium and $6 a cup for a large. The flavors on a recent day included horchata (a milky rice-y water flavored with cinnamon), and watermelon limeade punchy enough to ride the sugar rush. There’s also something called a “mangonado.” It’s like a giant fruit cup featuring fresh mango and frozen mango puree with a savory sauce akin to hot sauce but without the heat. 

The opening weeks have shown great promise, Islas and Sandoval said. Customers are coming in and falling in love. But the duo have bigger dreams, too. They envision a wholesale operation capable of putting the popsicles in retail outlets around the southeast United States. They also want to sell to corporations that would brand the products and sell them onsite — for example a custom flavor for a hotel chain, not unlike the check-in chocolate chip cookies at DoubleTree.  

Paradise Flavors is located at 9601 Overseas Hwy., and the telephone number is 213-476-8943. It is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., except Saturday and Sunday when it opens at 10:30 a.m.  

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