Woman turns passion for popcorn into a business

December 16, 2013 

NAME: ISIS JACKSON

Job: Owner, Pop-U-Lure Popcorn & More at the Food Court in St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights (www.pop-u-lure.com)

Outlook: "I always had a fascination with popcorn."

When Isis Jackson moved to the metro-east, she was also looking for a career move. Her life-long love of popcorn lead her to make and sell her own. Two months ago, she relocated her business to the mall. She recently visited with business writer Will Buss to talk about her popcorn:

Q: How did you get started?

A: "The business got started in January of 2012, I had just finished at SIUE and I didn't want to go back into corporate America. I told my husband that I couldn't send my resume to la-la land anymore and I always had a fascination with popcorn. So here we are. We first opened our doors on Hartman Lane and then we opened here in mid-October of this year and decided to close the O'Fallon store."

Q: What did you do before this?

A: "I am a native of Chicago and I was there working as a reporter of quality assurance and always worked behind the scenes with customer service. I have a analytical background with numbers and behaviors and trends and tracking. I worked for TDW and AT&T."

Q: What brought you to the metro-east?

A: "What brought me here is my husband's job. He is a conductor for Union Pacific. I said, OK, if I move to O'Fallon, if I come here, I don't want to go back to work, I want to finish my degree. So that was the deal."

Q: What is your degree in?

A: "Criminal justice."

Q: Why didn't you pursue that career?

A: "I'm too old to be a police officer. We have small children. My youngest is nine, so someone needs to be at home. With husband's job, he's gone a lot."

Q: So why the popcorn business?

A: "I always loved popcorn as a kid. My aunt used to take the train, she lived in Indiana, and she would take the train to downtown Chicago to work and she would bring us home big bags of Garrett's Popcorn. They're a very famous popcorn company. As a little girl, I remember me and my 20 other cousins would all have our hands out begging for the popcorn, and it was just so good. So it was my love for popcorn and just the fascination how you can build a business of something so simple."

Q: How did you learn?

A: "I am self-taught. I started off at home in my kitchen. I dibbled and dabbled with caramel recipes because I loved caramel popcorn and I wanted people to try it. I started having parishioners at my church try my popcorn. They went from sampling it to wanting to buy it for gifts, and I thought, OK, this is something that I can do."

Q: Where do you make it?

A: "We make it all here on site. We start off with kernels and we go from there. We use a mushroom kernel, which is a much bigger kernel. Most people would be familiar with a butterfly kernel, which has more hull. The mushroom kernel is more of a round kernel, which allows you to put more coating on and it can sustain more goodies that you put on top of it."

Q: How often are you here?

A: "I normally work seven days a week. I take a little time off once in a while. I look at as this is my last child. No more."

Q: How have customers responded?

A: "Customers have responded great to us. We are compared to Garrett's a lot, but we've only been around for close to two years now. All of the customers' responses have been positive."

Q: How many flavors of popcorn do you make?

A: "I have over 200 different recipes, but normally keep in the store between 25 to 30 different flavors. It just depends on the season. Now, with the holidays, we try to keep more because if you want strawberry, we usually have in more in the spring and summer, but we're making that on a more regular basis now in December."

Q: What is the most popular flavor?

A: "The most popular flavor is 'Chicago,' which is a mixture of caramel with cheese or our signature flavor, which is a caramel popcorn with white or milk chocolate."

Q: What is the most unique flavor?

A: "We have a pomegranate, which is very unique. Most people are like, 'How do you get pomegranate in popcorn?' We also have a coconut curry, which is a very unique flavor. The curry is not over powering, but it's a nice mixture for a lot of people who enjoy that. Right now, for the holidays, I came up with a rum nog. It's a run-flavored caramel dibbled in an egg nog chocolate."

Q: Is there is any other flavors that you want to try?

A: "I really want to try something like the craze with chicken and waffles. I still haven't figured out how to get that chicken taste with the molasses, so that is something I'm still trying to figure out. We also have pizza and barbecue. A new one we came up with was after I was on a web site looking up dip for a party and they had cheese beer dip. So we created a cheese beer popcorn, which we're calling 'Drunken Cheese.'"

Q: What do you enjoy most about the popcorn business?

A: "Putting smile on my customers' faces. I love it. I love it when I can cater for a wedding or if someone who is living alone and they come to the mall and they want some popcorn, I will sit there and talk to them. When we moved here, I didn't have any friends, now I have handfuls of friends. So that's the best part of it, seeing the smiles on people's faces. That's number one for me."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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