One-of-a-kind Retailer Offers Gourmet Popcorn
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
Popcorn Pizzazz generated a lot of buzz when it opened at the Publix-anchored Dalraida Commons on Atlanta Highway in November 2013.
The name did create some confusion. “Some people thought it was a pizza place,” said Claire Nobles, who owns the company along with her daughters, Lisa Gilliam, the store’s general manager; and Jacqueline Provo. There are three part-time workers.
Well, it’s not a pizzeria, but Popcorn Pizzazz does sell a pizza-flavored popcorn. The company has just about every imaginable flavor of popcorn. “Every flavor that we have to sell, we have every day and we’re coming up with new flavors all the time,” Nobles said.
She said there are close to 50 flavors and that the lengthy list includes Butterfinger, Oreo, Reese’s, cheesecake, cotton candy, margarita, Dr. Pepper, dill pickle, mac & cheese, sweet heat, bacon cheddar ranch, caramel cashew and caramel pecan. So far, the favorites have been extra cheesy cheese, white cheddar, caramel pecan, caramel cashew, cotton candy, cheesecake, peanut butter chocolate and Reese’s, Gilliam said.
This truly is a unique business. It is not a franchise. “There is nothing like this in Montgomery – we’re the only one,” said Nobles, who works two days a week at the store and four days a week for the State of Alabama as a personnel director at the Alabama Historical Commission.
“There is a really good market for (popcorn),” Nobles said. “It’s not something that people absolutely need, so we are very customer-service oriented. We treat people like family when they come over here. We realize this is not something people have to have. It’s something that we want them to want to have.”
In addition to having a flavor for all possible pallets, Popcorn Pizzazz offers six basic sizes: mini, junior, small, medium, large and X-large. There is also a party size. Those sizes can range from $1 for a mini butter size to $119.99 for an X-large chocolate flavored container.
There are eight general categories of popcorn: butter, chocolate, candied, savory cheese, extra cheesy, caramel, kettle corn and blends.
The popcorn business “has been really good,” Nobles said. There are cycles that the three owners learned about. Fall is a busy time with football season. The store creates blends with different colors for football fans. Christmas and Valentine’s Day are also busy times. “For holidays, people think about us,” Nobles said. “We do gift baskets and tins and tailor it to what people want.”
Popcorn Pizzazz delivers orders to schools and conducts a lot of business with Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex, according to Nobles. She said they also deliver to parties and weddings.
This is the family’s first business venture and grew out of a love for what else – popcorn. It was at a family retreat at Christmastime that they decided on a popcorn store. “We had some recipes and we started expanding on the recipes,” Nobles said.
What really got the business concept rolling was when Nobles and Provo enrolled at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneurial University at the Chamber Business Development Center. “Entrepreneurial University helped us realize the real costs,” Nobles said. “It was quite an eye-opener for us. It was so helpful – we just learned a lot. If we had not done that, I think we would have been in a lot of trouble.”
The two learned how to operate a business. They developed a business plan; obtained financing; and looked for a location. “We wanted to be in a location that is central and that had good traffic flow,” Nobles said. “We looked at quite a few places before we decided on this particular place.”
Then they learned how to tweak the business and that included reducing freight expenses by buying in bulk. “Most things we have to get brought in because there is nothing like this here,” Nobles said. Popcorn Pizzazz as you can imagine, goes through a lot of popcorn – about 150 pounds to 200 pounds a week. They also use about 140 pounds of coconut oil a week. They create their own flavors.
Nobles credits the store’s success to customer service and “having a niche market at this time because there is nobody else.” On the store’s Facebook page it states: “It’s not just popcorn … it’s popcorn with pizzazz.”