LINDALE – Small business owner Loren Simmons spent years traveling for major corporations and spending more time on the road than he preferred.
And then one day, an opportunity popped up to shuck the tie and reinvent himself as a small business owner alongside wife, Debra.
Today, the pair is the muscle behind Potter’s Gourmet Popcorn, located in the heart of Lindale, a stone’s throw away from The Cannery entertainment and retail district.
“When you travel a lot, you miss out on things,” he said. “I enjoy being here. It’s fun to see people say they like plain popcorn and then try a flavor. I really like it … I don’t ever plan on ever retiring.”
The couple’s red barn-shaped popcorn shop, 305 E. Hubbard, could be called a snacker’s paradise.
It contains a seemingly endless variety of flavor combinations from sour to sweet, including blackberry cheesecake - a nod to Lindale’s standing as the blackberry capital of Texas.
Other choices include flavors such as peanut butter, pickles, barbeque, watermelons, bacon (yes, really) and cinnamon buns, to name a few.
There’s even a puppy chow version - not for dogs, but the people who love them.
“We try to do a flavor of the month,” Mrs. Simmons said with a grin. “Loren wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea, sometimes even at 3 a.m. he’ll be talking about it … I tell him to write it down.”
All this fun actually started several months ago after Mrs. Simmons spotted a kettle corn machine for sale and the wheels in her head started turning.
All that thinking turned to talk and soon, the couple was in the kettle corn business, turning out buckets of golden goodies for adoring masses.
They opened the doors to their Potter’s Gourmet Popcorn shop, offering fresh popcorn for sale as well as gift and keepsake containers in varying sizes with pricing information available via phone at 430-235-2048 and online at www.potterspopcorn.com
But who, inquiring minds may ask, are the Potters?
“Potter was my maiden name,” Mrs. Simmons said, noting also the logo mascot is named Henry, for her husband’s father.
Business cards and product containers all feature bible scriptures - apparently a hit with customers, who often return to share touching stories of encouragement and inspiration.
“To hear the stories,” said Mrs. Simmons, who enjoyed a lengthy career in mission work before cranking out corn. “It’s really amazing … we’ll never know how many people will be touched because of it (scriptures).”
‘IT IS AN ART’
Apparently, it takes a certain knack to create the perfect piece of popcorn.
On this point, some might describe Simmons as a type of kernel connoisseur.
He understands the mechanics of good popcorn and he’s a real stickler on small details: hygiene, quality and consistency.
“It is an art, to make it correctly each and every time,” he said. “People look for consistency. I have to constantly refer to the recipe to make sure it’s always the same … I want it to be a ‘wow’ experience for the customer.”
Demand seems to surge around the holidays, resulting in long hours and little sleep – from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Some might wonder if being around popcorn all the time ever gets, well, stale.
Never, said Mrs. Simmons, who found the snack a helpful tool for weight loss.
“I love Bleu Buffalo,” she said. “It’s kind of like eating a wing, it’s sweet, savory and then a kick.”
(Nibblers beware: the “kick” is delayed by about five seconds.)
Not to sound corny, but her husband appears more a meat and ‘taters kind of guy.
“I like dill pickle and plain,” he said. “I don’t do the spicys.”
Employee Sydney Smith, entering her senior year at Lindale High School, adores the chocolate.
“I love the smell,” she said, eyes twinkling in delight. “It’s a lot of fun to work here.”
Not every combination the couple dreams up makes the cut.
“We’ve had failures … epic failures,” Simmons said. “Coffee, coffee hazelnut, we don’t have those … we could never refine it enough where we liked it.”
New favor combinations must apparently pass a stringent test before being introduced to the public – primarily pleasing the owners.
“If we don’t love it, we know others won’t like it,” Mrs. Simmons said.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct when the Potters started their popcorn business.