LUTZ — Only a person with a mouth utterly devoid of a sweet tooth could scroll through The Paleta Bar’s Instagram posts without contemplating a visit.


Still need a second opinion? How about this one from a young patron one afternoon last week.

“This is the best popsicle I’ve ever had.”

Was she a renowned wunderkind food critic? Probably not. But, c’mon. Who knows frozen treats and sweets better than a kid?

The Paleta Bar is much more than your standard vanilla, chocolate and strawberry popsicle shop and it caters to palates both basic and complex. Its signature item – the paleta – is a Mexican frozen dessert commonly served on a stick that is made from all-natural ingredients. After choosing between a fruitier water-based treat or creamier milk-based option, the paleta can then be dipped in chocolate – dark, milk or white – and covered with more than a dozen topping options.

Plain chocolate or strawberry? Go for it.

A s’mores creation finished off with a torch? It’s available.

How about a water-based mango chili covered in Tajin and chamoy? Bold, savory and on the menu.

The Paleta Bar’s take on the Mexican specialty – and its other menu items – is new to the Tampa area. The Lutz location, 3947 Van Dyke Road, is the region’s third. It joins the original in Town ‘N’ Country, 8436 W. Hillsborough Avenue, and the other within Westshore Mall.

All three locations opened this year, beginning in March, and the Tampa blitz is far from complete, said co-owner Dyon Santiago.

“Ideally, I wanted to open one every three or four months,” Santiago, 27, said from the Lutz location last week. “Now I’m already looking for another one. I want to open one in the Brandon/Riverview area. We're going to have 10 stores here.”

Santiago and his franchisee business partners, father Moses Santiago and friends George Garcia and Justin Archibeque, bring The Paleta Bar to Florida from its home base of New Mexico, where Santiago co-owns three other stores. There are nearly 30 total locations in seven states, with Florida now being the only one east of the Mississippi River.

Santiago and three others moved from New Mexico to South Tampa in December 2020. About three months later, customers were being served paletas in Town ‘N’ Country. The ambitious speed with which new locations are opening aligns with Santiago’s personality, his past as a collegiate wrestler and his present as a professional bodybuilder and personal trainer. It matches the company’s overall trajectory as well, considering The Paleta Bar was founded just four years ago with one store in Albuquerque.

“I don’t like to do just one thing,” Santiago said of his own ambitiousness in business and life. “I’m a hustler; I like to keep going. But I also want to make a name for myself. That's why I wanted to go pro in body building, too.”

One of the main reasons why The Paleta Bar spoke to Santiago, he said, was the business’s focus on customer service.

“It was the way they presented themselves when I first walked in,” he said. “The (Paleta Bar) CEO was a member of me and my dad’s gym and when I went into a Paleta Bar, it was the customer service. Greeting the people, starting conversations, getting to know people. In New Mexico, that’s what brings people back. The product is fantastic, too, obviously, but we want to make sure you leave with a smile and you remember us for great customer service.”

Santiago and his business partners brought that business mentality to Lutz and the expansion is already showing signs of being a success.

“I like this area a lot,” Santiago said, adding that he’s become a member of the Carrollwood Area Business Association to help network and become part of the community. “The people are really nice and they’re acknowledging us.”

The Paleta Bar participated in a 5k event at the Cheval Athletic Club prior to opening the store that received a lot of positivity from the community, Santiago said, and that continued during the Oct. 2 grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Paleta Bar will host a CABA After 5 networking event Wednesday, Oct. 27, where Santiago said guests will be treated to samples of whatever they like.

As for the rest of The Paleta Bar’s menu, it includes Aguas Frescas (refreshing beverages with flavors like horchata and blueberry-limeade) and a variety of fruit cups that can be topped and mixed with other ingredients. The Paleta Bar also offers dorinachos, elote (Mexican street corn) and bags of jerky made in New Mexico.

To expand their ability to tempt potential customers on a regular basis, Santiago and his associates are all over social media. Photos, descriptions, videos and more information can be found on The Paleta Bar’s Facebook and Instagram pages, and on TikTok.