Almost 2 years ago, Tim and I sold our house, and Tim's masonry business of 41 years. We moved to South Carolina where our daughter Shana and her family had moved 2 years earlier. After living in Hartville Ohio for 63 years, where we were both born and raised, this was quite a change!
Tim decided, being in his 60's, closer to the age when maybe he would choose to retire, that he didn't want to start another business and have employees. He also knew he could work for Galen, a fellow mason and friend, who lived just across the state line in N.C. and had offered him a job.
And, Tim had another plan forming. He wanted to do something on the side, that our 3 grandsons (while they were still young and think Grandparents are the next best thing) could help him with, and make some money too.
For a whole year before we moved, Tim would be watching people pop Kettle Corn on YouTube! My sister works at North Bend Kettle Corn Equipment Co. where they make Kettle Corn poppers. She had told us many successful stories of people across the country and the world actually, (yes, they ship international) who do this for a living.
This was totally out of my comfort zone! Although I tried to be positive about this new adventure, Tim sensed I was not gung-ho about it. Secretly, I was hoping he would forget about the whole thing!
But he didn't.
He seemed to get more excited as our time to move came closer. He would go to different venue's where a friend of his was popping Kettle Corn, to see how he did it, and also down to First Friday in Canton where my step sisters and their husbands were popping Kettle Corn as a fundraiser for Olive Branch Ministries. All of them were very positive about Kettle Corn. Tim just knew he would love it!
I knew I wouldn't!
We moved. Tim bought himself a Kettle Corn popper and the whole package that goes with it, tent and all. I was 'in' whether I wanted to be or not! He bought himself a trailer to put all of the 'stuff' in it and right there, neatly packed inside, was his 'side business.'
Because we moved to S.C. in October, the 'every Saturday Farmer's Markets' were over with, and the Holiday Festivals, already filled with venders that applied for a space months before, our Crazy Good Kettle Corn business, (yes, that is what our new venture is called) could not take off immediately. But, Tim got a space at a Flea Market that is open every Wednesday morning, rain or shine.
We set up our apparatus at Shana's house to practice popping, just to make sure we knew all the ropes before our first debut. It went amazingly well! How fun watching the boys faces show excitement as they observed and listened to the sound of many kernels exploding in that big stainless-steel bowl as it reaches a crescendo, when the heat is turned off and Tim flips over that big popper, dumping the contents into the sifting bin. The big pile of golden/white fluff that comes out of there is amazing to watch.
My job is to spread it out evenly as possible in the sifting bin, while the sugar, already on the popcorn as it pops, awaits the arrival of the salt we sprinkle over it. I then start working it with my two big stainless steel scoops, tossing and tossing that Kettle Corn until the sugar starts to crystalize into a shiny sparkle and I feel the corn getting crispier and crispier against my scoops.
'Now you can have some!' I told my dazed boys and they helped themselves. The neighbor man working in his shop came out to see what was happening, because he could smell popcorn! Of course, we presented him with a bag!
We were now ready for our first morning at the Flea Market. We knew beforehand it wasn't the best venue to be at, because frankly, who eats popcorn that early in the morning? But, this is what we had to do over the winter until Spring, when there is a festival for everything!
I dragged my feet the first morning we went. I could not believe this was actually me doing this, trying hard to be excited for Tim, because he was almost giddy about it!
We set up shop. We were fortunate to be right up by the office, on the blacktop, the main drag where people walk by. It went smooth enough. Thankfully, there was a couple we knew, Julian and Elsie Yoder, that had a food truck set up just across from us. They were so nice and encouraging, helping us get the 'feel' of the place by explaining a few things.
Our oldest grandson, Hunter, was with us that first time, taking care of the sales part, which I really didn't want to do. I was most comfortable just looking down at my sifting bin, stirring that popcorn into a crunchy, delicious, and very addicting snack!
And, wow! We did very well that first day! I have since had the secret thought, if only it would have been a low sales day, perhaps Tim would have sold the whole thing and we could have gone about our lives normally. But no, it had to be a 'good' day!
We popped at a Holiday Festival in Traveler's Rest in December, and unbelievably, it snowed the day before, something that rarely happens in S.C. early December, making them almost cancel 'The Very Merry Christmas' event. They decided to have it in spite of the weather, and even though a few snowflakes were still coming down, the diehards of that community came out in full force and it turned out to be a very good venue! Tim was hooked. I was not believing this!
The winter proved to be very unusual for S.C., being much colder than normal. Every Wednesday morning, up very early to get ready, grumbling inside my head (never out loud, didn't want to be negative) that I had to do this, I would go help my wonderful, very excited husband, Pop. This. Corn.
A couple times, too many actually, it didn't get over 40 degrees, but if the sun came out, it was a whole different story, downright decent! What I couldn't believe, is how early the people arrived that came to shop! The dealers are barely set up, it is still dark outside, and there are stragglers walking around, trying to be the first to find a good deal!
And, I have learned a lot about people already! One thing, there is a big difference between Flea Market shoppers and Festival people.
Flea Market shoppers, most of them anyhow, are looking for deals, finds, and are on a mission to accomplish that. If they can't find anything they want, they don't care, they still satisfied that deep yearning inside to go 'look' for it, whatever the 'it' was! They also come for their fruits and veggies, but maybe no extra's! And, popcorn is extra!
However, aside from the people looking for deals, there are the inquisitive ones, who smell this delicious stuff and come taste our samples we have in a snack size baggie for them to grab and nibble on as they shop. And it has brought them back for more! One delightful older gentleman took a sample and kept on walking, eating as he went. A little bit later he came back, laughing, and pointing his finger at Tim saying, 'You are a con man! I am coming back to buy a bag!' Tim loves those scenarios!
And there are some that will not be 'hooked.' An older man at the Flea Market came walking by, eyeing the delicious looking bags of popcorn neatly stacked, ready for purchase. With the smell of freshly popped corn still lingering in the air, Caramel Corn no less, his careful eye looked over everything. He finally asked Hunter how much the different size bags were, totally ignoring our sign with printed prices on it. Hunter said, '3 dollars for the snack size, 5 for the medium, and 7 dollars for the jumbo bag.' The man shook his head and took off, walking like he was trying to run away from the temptation to give in. I looked at Hunter and said, 'That, my boy, is probably a very rich man!'
Hunter looked surprised, because obviously, the potential customer thought the popcorn was too pricey. Hunter turned to take another look at the small man walking off with a purpose, observing his clothes, overalls and work boots, that looked rather worn. Hunter is all about 'looking good' or pointing out people, houses and land that are high end-ish and now his face showed that he didn't really agree with me. I said, 'and that is why he has money, because he doesn't spend it!' Hunter's eyebrows went up! I love teaching moments!
The Festival People. They are just out to be festive, wanting to enjoy a fun time with family or friends they may meet up with. They come along looking, looking at everything, and if they smell popcorn, they will buy some without hesitation, just because they are in a festive mood and having fun! Spending money is why they came and they will do it! Festivals are definitely the best venue of the two, but a Flea Market is good too!
Now, there are always exceptions to the rule. Sometimes you can be both! A Flea Market person, and a Festival person can mix. Especially when children are involved. It didn't take us long to find out, that the kids can really make a difference. The kids walk by and 'want popcorn.' The parents will always stop and get them a bag. They walk off, and later they come back and the parent wants a bag too! We love that!
And, we do have regulars! Yes, regulars that come to buy our popcorn! And, we found out that people DO eat popcorn for breakfast! They come by saying, 'I smelled this stuff way out in the parking lot and knew I had to have some!' We always say, 'We sell the smell!' or 'The smell is free!'
There are two men that come every Wednesday and buy bags of popcorn as gifts for the Tellers at their bank, and the gals that cut their hair. Dave and Tony come by in the morning, give us their order, and we give them each a snack size bag to take with them as they walk the Flea Market, advertising our popcorn!
One man drove 2 hours to enjoy walking the Flea Market, and then stopped at our tent and told us, 'My wife said, don't come home without some of that Kettle Corn!' There are a few other men who have told us they are getting a bag of popcorn per orders from their wife. This makes Tim smile. Me too, I guess.
And, just about every time, after we have set up the canopy, rolled out the popping machine, the sifting bin, the service/storage counter and the ingredient counter with the handwashing sink, the propane tank and the trash can, and after Tim has lit the fire under that big popping bowl, poured in the oil, dumped in the popcorn, and added the sugar to the whole mix, he looks over at me, where I am standing by the sifting bin, 2 scoops in my plastic gloved hands, waiting for the sound of corn popping . . . after all that, he smiles real big and says with emphasis; 'I LOVE this!' . . . and then I know I am doomed. I am in this for the long haul! Another time, as we stood listening to the first popper getting started, he looked over at me and said, 'Where else would you rather be?' Again, my fate is sealed, because he loves it!
And you know what? It actually is kind of fun! I have discovered the worst part, is getting up so early in the morning. Once I am there, it is about the most interesting place you could be, especially if you love people watching!
And, I have learned so much! Not just about popcorn, but about people and life. I love, love the different people you run into, and especially love when they start talking. We have seen and met the most interesting species of humanity!
But, that is for the next time. I will introduce them to you, because they truly fascinate me! There are people of all kinds. Some look a bit odd, others look like they have a hint of fashion, some are downright beautiful, others could care less, because they are at the Flea Market and anything goes! Some are walking with a purpose, others just kind of saunter along.
There is one thing for sure, I have fallen in love with these people, whether at the Flea Market or a Festival. I have learned a lot about the beautiful, the not so beautiful, the shy, the bold, the incredibly kind, the rude, (just one or two) the short, the tall, the chubby, the skinny, the normal, the not so normal ones. All of them have piqued my interest, and I am enjoying popping corn and meeting new friends.
I will tell you about some of them the next time.
I am a wife, a mom, and grandma to my 3 Boova. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, niece and friend.
Most importantly, I am a child of the King, my Savior, who I love and thank everyday, for life, the endless blessings showered on us, and the awesome world we live in.
I love to travel, read, bike and hike. I love to write about the people I meet, the places I’ve traveled to, , and about this beautiful world which is an endless discovery!