Two sisters vacationing in Mexico were kicking around ideas for a business venture they could start together. The eventual result was Las Paletas, the much-talked-about Nashville dessert shop where Norma and Irma Paz have been serving up healthy, homemade frozen treats for more than a decade. The paletas (think Popsicles, but better) change daily; the flavors are all over the board — lime, avocado and banana are some of the tamer ones. You also can get chocolate chile and adventurous offerings with ingredients like cucumbers, peppers, hibiscus and prune. Their only requirement? Fresh ingredients. Las Paletas has moved from its original location to a little house across from Sevier Park, and with spring right around the corner, nothing could be better than a paleta from Irma and Norma Paz.
Tell us something about yourselves.
Irma: I am soon to be 45, married, and mother of two boys, ages 5 and 7. I’m a bilingual, bi-cultural, travel-loving woman. I graduated college with a degree in communication science.
Norma: I’m a 47-year-old mom of two boys, ages 13 and 14.
Where are you from?
Irma: We grew up in between Guadalajara and L.A.
Why did you decide to open Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles?
Irma: Norma was expecting her first son and had been in business management … and she wanted to own her own business. I had been producing TV programs for nine years, and she called me and asked me to join the venture. We looked into different ideas, until on one trip to Mexico it became clear to us what our business should be: paletas.
How do you come up with your flavors?
Norma: We are inspired by the ingredients: good ingredients, good paleta. It’s quite simple, and that’s what we think people like. What makes them special is that they are made with actual ingredients, not flavorings, so everything tastes like what it is.
What is the secret to your success?
Irma: Success is subjective to each person, each business, each community. So we honor what is important to us, like time to be with our children, flexibility, being proud of what we make. We think people respect that.
How is it being in business with your sister?
Norma: Since we have not been in business with anyone else, this is all we know. Sometimes, when it gets tricky, we think of how we would resolve things if it was a stranger in front of us. The most important thing is that we want the best for each other. That makes it sometimes easy and sometimes hard.
Who was an early mentor to you?
Irma: People who wanted and made good lives for those they love. Mothers, teachers, the people we encountered in our everyday life — they empowered us to be the best we could be.
What is a valuable piece of advice you have been given?
Norma: When it comes to business, either you own it or it owns you. Make the choice.
What’s going on in Nashville that impresses you?
Irma: The people — how we Nashvillians love our city, whether it’s the “it place” or not.
What event are you looking forward to?
Norma: Summer! What else can we say?
Is there a local restaurant that wows you?
Norma: We love the idea of eating at restaurants where the food is not easy to replicate. Since we love to cook, we end up in ethnic places most of the time: Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese … Oh my, we’re getting hungry. Then how lucky are we, with all these great new places? Rolf and Daughters. Etch. The 404. Dinner, anyone?
Nashville has been called “Nowville” or even “Nextville.” Why do you think Nashville is in the national news?
Irma: It’s a growing city full of possibilities. The American dream is about transformation, metamorphosis — people want to be part of it or know about it.
If you could change one thing about Nashville, what would it be?
Norma: Nashville is change. It’s about embracing the change and being involved to make sure the change honors the essence of why we came here in the first place.
What books are on your bedside table?
Norma: I’m too busy right now.
Do you have any irrational fears?
Irma: The fear that what I fear is not at all irrational.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Irma: The one I just experienced, and the one I am planning for.
Norma: Anywhere on the beach in Mexico.
Where do you go when you’re looking for an inspirational boost?
Irma: Gray Bear. It’s only two hours away, but that is where I can connect and disconnect.
Norma: Radnor Lake.
Tell us one thing that people might be surprised to learn about you.
Irma: I want to think that I am quite transparent so nothing would be surprising. But maybe that I am gullible, and a minimalist.
Norma: Can’t think of anything.
Can you name three things you can’t live without?
Irma: Some form of exercise, some form of affection and tweezers.
Norma: A nice walk, good food and hugs.
Thanks, Norma and Irma! And thanks also to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photographs.
Learn more about Las Paletas here: www.facebook.com/pages/Las-Paletas-Gourmet-Popsicles. And see more of Ashley Hylbert’s work here: ashleyhylbert.com.