• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

The Popcorn Shoppe

Gourmet popcorn shop has endless options, tasty treats
In addition to the 71 different varieties of popcorn, the Popcorn Shoppe in North Liberty also sells saltwater taffy, homemade fudge, and other candy. The new business opened this summer. (photo by Jen Moore)

NORTH LIBERTY– Seventeen pounds.
That’s the weight of a sperm whale’s brain. It’s the weight of an average road bicycle. It’s a Shih Tzu with an eating problem.
It’s also the weight of an extra-large bag of caramel popcorn from North Liberty’s Popcorn Shoppe.
“With all of the toppings we can add, they can get pretty heavy,” Leo Young, owner of the Popcorn Shoppe, said with a chuckle.
But that hasn’t stopped Eastern Iowans from lugging the delicious treat from the store to their homes each day.
With 71 options for popcorn lovers to choose from, the Popcorn Shoppe boasts a variety of flavors most other stores can only dream of. Flavors range from strawberry cheesecake to savory cheese-based flavors. The shop even mixes the two into “the Chicago Mix,” a sweet and salty mixture of caramel and cheese.
This is what Leo and his wife Jan feel makes the Popcorn Shoppe so special. While most stores only carry a few basic flavors, the two have continued to expand their flavor list from the moment they opened. And just when it seems like they’re content with their lineup, the pair find another, then another, and another flavor to add.
“We started out with about 50 flavors; now we’re up to over 70,” Leo said. “All you need is syrup and the right seasonings, and you can create anything additional you’d like.”
“We wanted to be different,” Jan added.
The Popcorn Shoppe originally opened in the summer of 2010 with a location in Cedar Rapids’ Westdale Mall. At first, the store enjoyed a steady stream of business, as customers sought out one of the area’s only gourmet popcorn shop. But, as mall traffic decreased and demolition seemed imminent, Leo and Jan began seeking out a new space for the popular shop.
After scoping out areas in Coralville and Iowa City, the North Liberty residents turned to their hometown, which they’ve lovingly deemed a “booming metropolis.”
“We liked that the area was continually developing,” Jan said. “There’s always something new going up.”
Before the Popcorn Shoppe staff could welcome customers to the new North Liberty location in May, it took over a week of cooking, coating, and preparing the vast variety of flavors so they were ready to go for once the doors were opened.
The process of creating the popcorn is a lengthy one that takes up the majority of Leo’s day. He first pops about 20 gallons of corn per flavor. Then, if he’s creating one of his candied varieties, he pours the flavored syrup and cooked popcorn into a large 15-gallon candy coater, which heats up and agitates the popcorn in order to coat each piece. The popcorn comes out piping hot, at about 300 degrees. Then it must sit on a large metal table and cool off, with Leo stirring occasionally to help it cool faster. Finally, the popcorn is stored in large plastic tubs, just waiting for a hungry shoppers to come get it.
The process is nearly the same for cheese-flavored products, except Leo uses a buttery oil mixture and real melted cheese.
Depending on the type of popcorn he’s making, the whole process can take over two hours for each flavor, and Leo often pops about 100 gallons of popcorn each day.
The shelf life of the candied varieties is about eight weeks, though most rarely last that long on the store shelves. The caramel flavored popcorn is especially popular. Leo makes a batch of it almost daily.
In addition to flavored popcorn, the Popcorn Shoppe also sells an assortment of homemade fudge, taffy and old-fashioned candies, some of Jan’s favorite items to sell.
“I enjoy seeing people get excited about it,” she said. “I mean, to get a piece of candy from when they were little makes people really happy and nostalgic.”
The Popcorn Shoppe is located in the Penn Landing development, at 725 Pacha Pkwy, suite 4. Hours are 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon until 5 p.m. on Sundays. A complete flavor list is available at www.popcornshoppecr.com. The store also creates custom gift packages.