Don’t know about you, but I have always thought of popcorn as fun. When we make it at home with the grandchildren, it is to spread the fun and good times. When we attend a movie and order buttery popcorn, it is because we associate that taste with watching a good story on the big screen. When we use popcorn to make delightful balls, squares and bags, it is usually for Halloween or Valentine treats to share with those we love. What’s not to love about popcorn? Especially when you have so many choices — 250 to be exact, with more on the way.
Pop Family (2612 Dowlen Rd., Beaumont) opened its doors to the public on June 1, and owners Chris and Nancy Lamson are thrilled with the response the new store has received thus far. “I love popcorn,” said Nancy. “And I think everyone else does, too.”
Chris and Nancy are both originally from Southeast Texas, but busy careers took them away from Beaumont for years. Chris was a consultant for ICF and a retired colonel with the U.S. Marines while Nancy enjoyed a long and successful career in mortgage banking, working for Wells Fargo. Her job required quite a lot of travel to the 300 branches she supervised, along with meeting the needs of more than 2,500 employees. The Lamsons have two sons, one a U.S. Marine officer and the other a U.S. Naval officer.
The perky business owner said that the two of them sat down and talked about what they wanted to do with their lives and came to the conclusion that they wanted to go home. Nancy’s father, Donald Boumans, became ill and his daughter was able to help in his care until he passed away this past July. “In fact, this business is named for my dad. We all called him ‘Pop,’ thus Pop Family Popcorn,” Nancy said, adding that it was very important for their family to give back to the community in which they were reared. “We wanted to open a business that would be fun, profitable, and a training ground for young people who honestly want to work.”
Nancy explained that she knew she could incorporate many of the business principles she had learned over the years in her mortgage banking career and help to give leadership experience, customer service appreciation, and provide safe jobs in the community the couple calls home. “We have some real winners among our employees,” she said, “and we are very proud of our staff. I can’t wait to see what they will become, and we are here not only to offer them this job, but also to support them in any way we can. We are a team.”
Both Chris and Nancy have an unusual commitment to seeing that the community they love is the recipient for any good they can provide. “We are partnering with the Julie Rogers ‘Gift of Life’ Program, several other charitable outreaches, schools, churches, sports teams, Scout groups, civic organizations, vacation Bible schools, and others to help with fundraising opportunities, set up popcorn bars, or in seeing that folks come in and have fun,” said Nancy. “We provide popcorn for wedding receptions, showers, birthdays, corporate gatherings and family fun. And we are willing to work with organizers and hosts to see that by adding popcorn to the overall plan, we will be a positive influence and offer that little something extra that you don’t always get.”
The Lamsons are proud of their crew and take every opportunity to introduce them and to talk about their talents. “Mason Dollarhide is our chef in the back, and he also works the counter at times,” said Nancy. “He loves coming up with a new flavor, mixing two that we might not have thought of before, or adding that certain ingredient to make the popcorn just perfect and over the top.” Nancy says that experiments are always ongoing and that new flavors pop up from time to time.
The owner said that two primary kernels are used, but she would not give away the family secret. “All I will tell you for print is that we pop the corn fresh here in the store, and then the flavor ingredients are added and it is baked or cooked again. Past that, my lips are sealed,” she laughed. She also said that if a customer has a flavor idea, the staff would make it happen. “They need only to fill out a flavor card, and give us a little time, and they might see their creation on the popular menu.”
Many gift choices are packaged beautifully for customers to choose from in the store, and special orders are gladly made upon request.
Speaking of flavors … the popcorn is divided into categories: Candied, Caramel, Spicy and Cheese, Gourmet, and Chocolate and Specialty. Along with Apple, Banana, Blueberry, Cinnamon Roll, Key Lime, Mango, Pumpkin and Raspberry, you have Bavarian Cream, Black Licorice, Cola Flavor, Cotton Candy, Irish Cream, Root Beer, Salt Water Taffy, and Watermelon. For Southeast Texans, there is Cajun, Hot Wings with Blue Cheese, Spicy Taco, Jalapeno Cheddar, and Parmesan and Garlic.
Also popular choices are Bar-B-Q, Dill Pickle, Italian Sausage, Pizza, Ranch, and Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, among a myriad of others to choose from at any given visit. My grandson, Brendan Jones, now 15, accompanied me on this interview and he could not decide between the flavors. He loved all of the hot and spicy ones, but went home with Grape and Cola flavors, and with a long list of those he will try on our next visit.
Try a Banana Cream Pie, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Chocolate Crunch Bar, Mint Oreo, Peach Cobbler, or Strawberry Cheesecake, from the Specialty flavors, and yes, we are still talking about popcorn.
The only real problem we had in our visit was which to choose first. Looking at an array of 250 flavors makes anyone stop and take pause to think. What doesn’t help matters is the wonderful aromas of all of the flavors surrounding you as you make your choices. We found the staff helpful, friendly and just plain fun, which was the purpose of our visit to the store.
You can visit, too, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but the store is closed on Sunday. Nancy said, “It’s a Pop family kind of day.”
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.