In recent years, it seems as though almost everything has come to ever-bustling Mebane.
But just when you think you have it all, something else shows up to arouse the senses and the taste buds.
The Popcorn Shoppe (www.ThePopcorn-Shoppe.com) opened during the fall within the Garrett Shopping Center along Mebane Oaks Road - a short walk from Walmart. The company has a slogan of “Where Gourmet Taste Pops.”
Husband and wife team Darius Peterson and Contonna “C.J.” Peterson have found tremendous success with their first two locations at Emerald Isle and Goldsboro, and decided to bring their popular concept to Alamance County.
“We are wanting to expand the horizons of Mebane’s gourmet palate with gourmet popcorn. We just want to bring gourmet popcorn to the area,” Contonna Peterson said in a recent interview. “This is our third location. We’ve got one in Emerald Isle that is open seasonally. We’ll open that back up in April of this year. And we’ll probably run April through end of September or end of October. And we also have a location in Goldsboro.”
When asked why they chose Mebane for their most recent venture, Peterson said it was because of the small-town charm here.
“This community is so close-knit. It’s got a hometown feel. And being raised in North Carolina, that’s what we like to immerse ourselves into. We like to become a part of the community,” she said.”
For those who have made their way into the local storefront, they already know that it’s a popcorn lover’s paradise. There’s a regular rotation of anywhere from 45 to 50 or more flavors in the store at any given time. The company takes heavily into consideration the feedback they receive from customers as they stock their shelves each day.
“It’s really based off of the feedback from the clients,” Peterson said of the selection at the Popcorn Shoppe. “We’ve had several clients who have come in and said, ‘Do you have something with parm(esan cheese) and garlic, or something with garlic in it? We do. We have a parm and garlic that is now on the shelf. Several customers have asked if we have something in that range.”
“If we have a flavor that is not moving, we’ll discontinue that one and bring in a new one to replace it,” she continued. “We want to make sure to keep up at least 45 to 50 flavors in the store at all times. Most of the time, it’s based on what the customers ask for. We really base what we bring in on them.”
While there are some go-to favorites, such as cheese, chocolate, or Caramel Sea Salt, many other flavors are much less expected. Flavors such as lemon pound cake, which has become a hot seller in Mebane. Or crab legs. Or strawberry cheesecake.
It’s truly remarkable that a piece of popcorn can taste like lemon pound cake or crab legs, but it’s true. You have to try it for yourself to really believe it.
“We actually have about 200 different recipes. We try to make sure to keep a good rotation. We’ve got maybe an additional five to seven new flavors we brought in (last week),” Peterson explained, indicating that the company has an in-house popcorn chef in Smithfield.
“Our biggest thing is always using good, quality products. For us, if it says M&M’s, there’s real M&M’s in it. There’s real Butterfinger in it. Things of that nature. Keeping the quality up is important,” she continued. “It’s all about changing the flavors, and finding a new flavor that people like. We just brought in lemon pound cake, but we can’t seem to keep it on the shelf.”
“We’ve had a couple bakers come in - they had their skepticism, of course - and then they come in and go, ‘That’s real lemon pound cake.’ So we’re like, we hit the nail on the head if a baker can tell us that’s real lemon pound cake.”
The Popcorn Shoppe allows customers to have multiple free samples before making any purchasing decisions. They also have a popular loyalty program that ensures free bags of popcorn after a certain number of purchases.
“We are definitely a family-owned and operated business. We do like being a part of the community, and we appreciate the support within the community,” Peterson said. “The loyalty program - people are enjoying that. They’re enjoying their free bag of popcorn, which is awesome.”
There are also plans for a “paint and sit” event later this month, which combines the elements of painting and drinking wine with fresh local gourmet popcorn.
“We’re working on a pop, paint, and sip around Valentine’s Day,” Peterson said. “It’s like a paint and sip, where you come in and get a class of wine. We just want to add the ‘pop’ portion, since we’re adding popcorn.”
The Popcorn Shoppe is located at 1326 Mebane Oaks Road. Its operating hours are 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week. For additional information, visit https://www.thepopcorn-shoppe.com.