What’s Pop-In’ Gourmet Popcorn was founded by two food industry professionals who wanted to make something that was both affordable to all and associated with happy times. As one of the most approachable and popular snacks, popcorn seemed just the ticket. The business they started in 2018, What’s Pop-in’, offers flavors from sweet to savory, from familiar to off-the-wall. For your sweet tooth, enjoy peanut butter cup, white chocolate truffle, or animal crackers. To satisfy a classic salted popcorn craving, reach for dill pickle, salt and vinegar, or garlic parmesan. More creative and wacky flavors are promised on the regular. Whatever you choose, have a second bag ready; this snack is addictive.
How did you get started?
Stefan Coker: We met when we worked together at the Filling Station. Dave started as a dishwasher there. We saw the potential in him. We’ve been rolling ever since. He’s an owner, but he’s also my family.
At the Filling Station, I got sick of sending out side salads and wanted to do something different. Somebody came in and gave me a popcorn sample, and we got the idea—it was just a joke at first—to open up a popcorn concept. It got serious once I started doing my homework and researched the popcorn industry. If you’ve had my food from the Filling Station, you realize that I do things differently. It’s not like work. We’re goofing off all day, coming up with cool and funny flavors. It’s cool we can be ourselves. And my children are my inspiration. The work ethic it’s building in them is amazing.
How do you come up with your flavor ideas?
I’m the crazy guy who’s like, “I’m gonna do a California roll.” Dave’s like, “OK.” It’s fun for us. We play around with it. Pineapple? Glazed pineapple cherry ham? We go back and forth. Dave could be doing something else, but he’s working on popcorn seven days a week. It’s not about popcorn, necessarily; it’s about more. You can come from nothing or you can come from something and you can still be successful. My goal is somebody writes a book about us.
How do you make your popcorn?
We make a lot of our own spices. I love using Penzey’s and we just play around with the combinations. Our abilities in the restaurants have helped us create this. I love trail-mix style specialties, so we decided to make those. S’mores—you can heat that up for a couple minutes—and kids love it. We come up with a lot of our flavors from kids. They have a say in what they want.
What do you consider most unique about your business?
A lot of people don’t know we do special flavors with businesses and organizations. We work with Jericho Road. Ingram Micro gets product from us. I’m doing an event with the International Institute of Buffalo, too. We will create a logo for you and customize popcorn for you. We do corporate events, custom flavors, and give a more exclusive vibe. I think it’s so important to get involved with the community. I want to get people together and create a movement. You don’t have to resort to the streets.
What’s your favorite flavor to recommend?
Black Truffle is the OG. My Little Lady is a favorite because it represents my daughter. I recommend Pickle and Mexican Street Corn, too—we probably had the most fun making it—but we love them all. They all hold a special place in our hearts.
What’s Pop-in’ Gourmet Popcorn
418 W. Ferry Street, Buffalo
1900 Military Road, Niagara Falls