WBLK Sable Series Sponsored By Hennessy: What’s Pop-in’ Gourmet Popcorn Owner Stefan Coker
Hey, it's Yasmin Young and I'm teaming up with Hennessy to highlight black-owned businesses right here in Buffalo and Western New York as part of the WBLK Sable Series sponsored by Hennessy. For this edition, I talked to Stefan Coker, owner of What's Pop-in' Gourmet Popcorn, a Buffalo-based family business known for its crazy, unique flavors. Check out our conversation below:
What a unique business! How did you get started doing these flavored popcorns and these wild, wacky flavors you do?
Honestly, it was just a joke. I was an executive chef – I’ve been a chef for a long, long time – and to be honest, I wanted to start working for myself. I always saw potential in myself. I think it was just creating something that we love. We used to send out popcorn in the side salad at the restaurant, black truffle, actually. People became really receptive to what we were doing. Me and Dave are big guys. We thought it would be cool to create this quaint, beautiful concept with two big guys slinging popcorn.
I love it. At the Oakk Room, we featured you guys, and you gave me a package of the dill popcorn. What are some of your other flavors that are really out of the box?
Mr. Wilson and everyone over at the Oakk Room, they showed us love, and I always wanted to be a part of the East Side and really start to grow there. They opened doors, and it’s amazing. I appreciate it. As far as the crazy flavors, dill pickle’s our number one seller, but I could go all day. Garlic parmesan is a big one. Loganberry.
My daughter and my kids have concepts to the business; My Little Lady is a strawberry birthday cake flavor my daughter developed. We make sure we keep all those funds and we start her up with an investment account. We’re really teaching that growth to the young community. Mexican street corn is a huge favorite. I get so wild sometimes; I was just talking about an old school green bean casserole. I’m always playing around with different concepts. California roll we’ll be dropping soon. I probably have enough flavors to last four years.
In addition to doing the flavors, you also have other aspects of your business where you do some catering as well as private label. Talk about that.
We do catering. We do a lot of popcorn bars; we do a lot of weddings. You name it, we do it. I really represent the private label side: small business, big business, looking to brand the product along with their own brands – custom flavor, hand-stamped bags with their own logo on them. I’m really trying to get myself into that style industry. What makes it cool is that it becomes exclusive. We don’t sell those flavors in our store, you’ve got to go track these people down. We all need to come together as a collaborative group of small businesses.
I know you posted something on Instagram; you’re doing something for Black History Month with Wegmans. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
We’re supplying popcorn for 13 locations for their employees and for marketing purposes. We will be negotiating stores to sell in and hopefully when I lock that up I’ll start putting out a list of stores that we’re in. I’m really branding all over the country right now, so this is a great opportunity for us to really showcase the product on a different level.
What's Pop-in' is really active on social media because they want their customers to message them, comment and feel like they are part of the movement. You also can find them at their storefront at 418 W. Ferry St. in Buffalo and online at whatspoppingourmetpopcorn.com.