HOBART | What’s Poppin & More combines Mary Brancato and Tom Hornof’s favorite treats: popcorn and ice cream.
“We started with these two because I love popcorn and she loves ice cream,” Hornof said. “Some people call it junk food. I call it comfort food.”
The co-owners offer Ashby’s ice cream while their popcorn is created in-house based on recipes that fulfill cravings from sweet to spicy. Beyond traditional caramel and cheese as well as a mix of the two, flavors range from rocky road and s’mores to pizza and taco.
Brancato is the brains behind the recipes except for the spicy mixes of jalapeño and peppercorn, which Hornof helped develop.
“We have a line of savory flavors while other places have the candy flavors,” Brancato said. “Double Trouble Cheddar is white and gold cheddar that starts sharp and finishes mild. Italian Stallion is a really unique flavor of Italian seasonings such as cheese, red pepper, garlic and onion powders, and parsley.”
“There are 10 or 12 flavors, and all our employees know our recipes so it will taste the same every time you come in,” Hornof added. “If you have a taste for it, it’s going to be there.”
The store features a candy counter and the team has helped add flavor to region events.
“We have done a few weddings and showers where they had a popcorn bar. Everyone received a sample size,” Brancato said.
“We make our own labels so they can coincide with the event,” Hornof added.
Brancato brings a retail management and restaurant background to the store while Hornof has worked as a truck driver. The idea has its roots in Brancato’s time in Illinois when she would take a lunch break at a nearby popcorn shop.
“Mary kept talking about opening a gourmet popcorn store. When she lived in Illinois, she would grab a little bag of popcorn for lunch at a place next to the Hallmark store where she worked,” Hornof said. “We had been thinking about it years ago, but it didn’t work out. Then this year, everything clicked: the building was available and we pooled up our money – we didn’t finance anything. We were ready to go and it was the right time to do it.”
Hornof said they have been able to find used equipment as a way to save on costs.
“Whatever anybody tells you you will need to open a business, you will end up needing double that,” he said.
While they look to add offerings in the future such as coffee, seasoning mixes and pies and cakes, they remain focused on their core treats.
“You got to do what’s in front of you first, and then take the next step. We want our flavors perfect before we bring in something else. We don’t want to slack on one thing. We want to be known as gourmet and top-of-the-line and not cut corners,” Hornof said. “It’s a challenge keeping everything new. We want the next new flavor of popcorn before anyone else has it.”