The first thing I think of when I hear “Gourmet Popcorn” are the old three compartment tins my grandpa would get as a kid. There was the “cheese” flavor that tasted like someone dumped Kraft Mac and Cheese powder on styrofoam, caramel covered that was as if someone dipped styrofoam in caramel sauce, and the plain that just tasted like they ran out of things to put on the styrofoam. Pop Pop Shoppe, opening tomorrow (Saturday), is certainly not the popcorn you remember.
The Texarkana based popcorn shop focuses on being as fresh as possible, something rarely found in the pre-popped world of gourmet popcorn. The Park Avenue (University Target center), located next to Gigi’s Cupcakes, is first expansion from the home base of Texarkana, and they are taking every step to make sure the quality remains high.
“We have spent a lot of time working on consistency, timing, and quality before we made the move to Little Rock,” Owner Patrick Thornton tells us. “We rotate inventory quickly to make sure what is on the shelf is fresh, and we are running a truck twice a week from our production facility in Texarkana to keep everything fresh.”
The difference in the popcorn is instantly noticeable. The popcorn is still very light and airy instead of the dense chewy stuff the Boy Scouts come along and sling every year. They keep 12-15 flavors in store that include standards such as buttered, cheddar, caramel, wedding cake, and others along with a few seasonal flavors. In store they offer various bag sizes, large tins, and a fresh popcorn station that features in store-popped popcorn and warm toppings.
Pop Pop Shoppe also offers fundraising, large gift order programs, and popcorn bars for weddings and catering events, and can come in any of their nearly 30 flavors. Custom orders are popped to order as close to the delivery time as possible to ensure an even fresher flavor.
While the standard flavors look great, it is some of the specialty flavors that catch our eye. Flavors like cinnamon roll, strawberry, hot chocolate, banana, and watermelon are a great departure from typical candied flavors. Savory options like loaded potato, dill pickle, cajun, and what has been called the “world’s hottest popcorn”, cornferno, begged to be sampled.
The team works constantly on developing new flavors and have a number in the works.
It is great to see something with more of a local flair move into the Park Avenue shopping center. Thornton took over the small Texarkana business in 2014 and was very careful in selecting Little Rock as a location to grow the business.
“The biggest reason to grow into Little Rock was our customers,” Thornton says. “We constantly had people from Little Rock making the drive to or from Dallas stop in and grab popcorn. They would beg us all the time to look into expanding to Little Rock. It really felt like a natural move, and it is a quick enough drive that we can still maintain the same level of quality.”
Thornton says he may add more locations in the future, but wants to keep within a short travel distance of the production facility in order to maintain freshness and quality.
Pop Pop Shoppe opens Saturday, Oct 8th, at 10 am. The first 10 customers to stop in receive a coupon book good for free popcorn for a year. Going forward their hours will be Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday, 1 – 5 p.m.