A visit to a retail popcorn shop near Liz Smith’s hometown of Sandusky planted a kernel of an idea into her husband Mike’s mind that eventually led to the couple opening a home-based popcorn business — and now, the Smiths have signed a lease to open a retail storefront.
Poppin’ Off Gourmet Popcorn currently sells its popcorn at a “pop-up shop” at “Lunch @ 4WestMain” in Troy, as well as at local farmers markets and festivals. And soon — perhaps before the holiday season — the Smiths will open a retail store at 125 S. Market St. in Troy.
Here’s the story behind Poppin’ Off Gourmet Popcorn, in Liz Smith’s own words:
What prompted you to launch Poppin' Off?
My husband, Mike Smith, and I wanted to work on a project together. My passion is cooking. Mike is always telling me my food is better than many restaurants we go to, and we need to sell my food. Then, in September 2016, we were visiting my family in my hometown of Sandusky, Ohio. I was showing Mike all the sights in the area and ended up taking him to a popcorn shop in Port Clinton. My husband said "This is it.... This is the business we can work on together. This would be such a great fit for downtown Troy". I (wasn’t sure) if he was serious. That Christmas, he got me a commercial popcorn popper and a 50-pound bag of popcorn for Christmas. So, I said "Okay, I guess we are opening a popcorn shop." And from there we went to work developing recipes.
How long have you been selling in Troy, and how does that work?
We turned the dining room in our home into a popcorn shop. All of the Poppin' Off Gourmet Popcorn is currently being produced there. We started selling in Troy last November under the Ohio Cottage Food Law. We have "Pop-Up Shops" frequently at Lunch@4WMain in Troy, and also sell at local Farmers Markets and other area festivals and events.
Do you have long-term plans to open your retail store?
Yes, the response to our product has been very positive within the community and surrounding areas. So, we decided to go with the momentum and start working on opening up a storefront. We have rented a space at 125 S. Market Street in Downtown Troy, and are currently working through all the health and building requirements to get the space approved for producing food. There is no set opening date yet; however, my hope is to be open before the holiday season.
What are your customer favorites or signature flavors?
We have lots and lots of flavors. And, I have pages and pages of flavor ideas. Each month, I release "Flavor Collections" to coincide with events that are going on within that given month. For example, in June, I had a "Strawberry Collection" since the Troy Strawberry Festival was going on. I even released a Strawberry Donut Popcorn in that collection. I also came out with a Bridal Collection during that month since June is a popular month for weddings. I make a beautiful and delicious Wedding Cake popcorn that has been extremely popular for weddings and bridal showers this summer.
We also have my "It's 5 O’Clock Somewhere Collection" where I released my popular Salted Bourbon Caramel flavor. Every time I take the Salted Bourbon Caramel to an event, it sells out so fast, I have to go home and make more. We will offer more fun flavors in this collection around the holidays. My top seller is still my Old Fashioned Caramel followed by Chicago Style. But the Bourbon may overtake them. Other notable favorites are "It's A Big Dill" and Buffalo Wing.
I also have a premium line where the popcorn is mixed with candies or drizzled with decadent chocolate. Some customer favorites in this line include Buckeye, Cherry Cordial, Chocolate Covered Strawberry, and S'Mores to name a few.
What else do you want people to know about Poppin' Off?
We strive to provide the "perfect customer experience" by being committed to providing our customers with high-quality gourmet popcorn using high-quality ingredients. We don't skimp on ingredients to make the product cheaper to make. We are all about flavor at Poppin' Off. My popcorn has to be amazing or I don't release it. I personally taste test every flavor to make sure the flavor is "spot on." I want my customers who buy my popcorn to open up their bag and say, "OMG, this is amazing.... I need more."