Homewood’s Pop Culture marked its four-year anniversary Oct. 8 by announcing a new flavor—Snake Bite, a spicy mix with Ghost Pepper.
The gourmet popcorn shop’s owners, Carlos Smith and Kendall Jackson, have been friends since they were teenagers. This friendship continued into adulthood. They would meet once a year to have a meal and discuss their lives. They both were administrators in the field of education. After more than 40 years of experience, they both decided to leave to pursue business.
At one of their annual meals they both came with ideas. They both had gourmet popcorn as their first idea.
Smith recalls trying to connect with other shops for franchising purposes.
“We initially tried to go to popcorn shops that were already open and fairly popular,” said Smith.
Unfortunately, the shops weren’t receptive to providing the opportunity. The owners did not give up, and eventually found a brand willing to teach them the business.
During a family trip, Smith and his wife saw a billboard sign for Popcorn Haven, with a tagline about having 250 flavors of popcorn. After doing research, Smith and Jackson went to the shop the following day speaking to employees, observing the atmosphere and tasting different flavors.
After speaking to the Popcorn Haven owners, Smith and Jackson received their franchising opportunity and a chance to learn more about the business of gourmet popcorn. Eventually, the men parted ways with Popcorn Haven on amicable terms. In 2018, Pop Culture officially began.
Claiming to be the largest popcorn shop in the South Suburbs, Smith stated Pop Culture can produce over 300 flavors of popcorn. The shop balances this by working with 50 flavors at any time, switching the flavors each season.
PopCulture’s tagline is “We’re Everyone’s Flavor” and gives their popcorn options catchy names like Oh-Bama, a play on the former president’s name for its white cheddar and caramel sea salt selection, or Spicy Jaxon, a blend of hot cheddar and cheesy caramel that plays off of Michael Jackson.
Smith’s personal favorites are Honey Barbeque and Snake Bite.
As the business has grown, Pop Culture has given back to the community in various ways. In partnership with local schools and nonprofit organizations, the shop helps with fundraisers giving half the profits to the organizations.
Pop Culture also employs people from Chicago and the surrounding communities. The next goal is to start a scholarship fund.
“As teachers, we want to continue to pour into people with their education,” said Smith.
Smith’s advice to other entrepreneurs is patience, learning the business, perseverance and knowing your why.
“Don’t think that it’s going to happen overnight. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs, especially in the beginning,” Smith said.
Pop Culture’s two locations are 18035 Dixie Highway in Homewood and another at 509 E 153rd St. in Phoenix.
PopCulture sales are through their stores or by visiting www.popculturegpstore.com