When gourmet popcorn shops with dozens of flavors first started popping up, it might have seemed like an overly niche fad that wouldn’t last long, but popcorn culture has survived even during recent tough economic times.
At least that’s what Justin and Melody Woo, owners of Popculture in Parkville, have experienced. The husband and wife duo purchased the popcorn and ice cream shop from its previous owners in 2019, right before the pandemic, and it was challenging.
“It forced us out of our comfort zone,” says Justin, a chef by training. “We had to rethink our business model and take risks that we may not have taken otherwise. In the end, it was a good thing.” They leaned into delivery and shipping, increasing those avenues exponentially, he says.
“We were delivering little boxes of fun during a really miserable time,” adds Melody, a dietician.
And it is fun. With flavors from hot wings to blueberry cheesecake, the Woo’s popcorn makes almost any day a celebration. There’s a Tasting Wall from which customers are encouraged to spend some time sampling the roughly 50 flavors, such as a syrupy Dr. Pepper to a sharp grape. When asked how they distill the essence of a loaded baked potato into popcorn, Melody laughs and says, “magic?”
The Woos start with quality air-popped corn, creating a blank slate for this weird magic. Whatever arcane incantations it takes to transmute the savory, spicy tang of a fried pickle into a popcorn flavoring, it works. And of course, there are seasonal flavors at the moment, such as peppermint bark, candy cane, maple syrup and eggnog.
It’s popcorn culture.