Hot and Cold: King of Pops Gets Into the Sandwich Game 

click to enlarge Paul Cassimus, owner of the King of Pops, has brought the Reign, his new sandwich business, to the patio culture of Scott’s Addition.

Scott Elmquist

Paul Cassimus, owner of the King of Pops, has brought the Reign, his new sandwich business, to the patio culture of Scott’s Addition.

Sitting on the patio of the King of Pops’ storefront in Scott’s Addition, the windy, unseasonably cold temperatures last week slowly turn owner Paul Cassimus and me into — frankly — human ice pops, frozen to the picnic table where we sit. There’s no room for us inside the small brick building. A recent delivery still in boxes fills the space, while five employees try to work around the obstacles.

Cassimus, a tall guy in a dark ski jacket who speaks in a booming bass, began his business four years ago with one cart at the Lakeside Farmer’s Market. He decided last year to add a window to the building at 3001 W. Clay St. so that passersby could snag a lemon-basil or chocolate-sea-salt pop on the spot. The former industrial neighborhood had changed dramatically since he first set up shop there in 2013, and with the brewery invasion, suddenly Scott’s Addition had become a destination.

A patio made sense too, and as spring rolled around this year, Cassimus began to think about what the area lacked. A brick-and-mortar store was never part of the original business model, which was cart-based, he says. But he really wanted more to choose from when he got hungry.

“Me and my manager, Nils [Nelson], both live here,” Cassimus says. “Man, we thought, Scott’s Addition really needs some quality, awesome sandwiches.”

The company already was bursting at the seams, so it made sense to expand into the space next door. Cassimus had strong ties to the local farmers who supplied the raw ingredients for his pops, and thought that if he could use the same approach — taking something familiar and adding surprising flavors with fresh, bright ingredients — he could easily transition to lunch fare. To give the business a separate identity from King of Pops, he named the sandwich side the Reign.

Former employee Anthony Muscolino was his first call. He had a culinary background and had talked about starting his own food truck someday. When Cassimus explained his concept, Muscolino knew just what he was going for. From a list of 30 sandwich ideas, the two whittled the menu down to five choices, with an additional one or two seasonal sandwiches.

“We’re not looking to make the highest margins,” Cassimus says. “We’re looking to use the best stuff.”

Muscolino slathers sandwiches with rosemary mayonnaise or orange-zest butter to create such choices as the turkey zesto — a smoked turkey sandwich with pesto topped with arugula, red onion and tomato. On the outside, its Billy Bread slices are spread with that orange zest butter and seared to a crunchy finish.

“There are a few other things I want to be making, but I want to make sure that we do everything well first,” he says. He’s thinking about mac ’n’ cheese, for instance. “It’s basically the kind of things that I want to have — ‘Paul’s favorite foods,’” he says, laughing. richmond.kingofpops.com.

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