Popcorn Shops Share Family Traditions With Northeast Indiana
In this week’s installment of NorthEATS Indiana, we focus on two Fort Wayne popcorn businesses that were started by young women with the help of their families.
One of the women was diagnosed with cancer and died in April at the age of 27, and now her dreams are being carried on by her father, who is determined to keep her vision alive.
In an interview with WBOI’s Julia Meek last year, Lindsey Hively said she has enjoyed popcorn since she was a little girl.
“My family we always made homemade popcorn growing up, and then we’d season it up with different seasonings, and just always testing different recipes,” she said.
Her father, Gary Hively, says popcorn has always been a family activity.
“I guess I’ve always loved popcorn, and as we were growing up, we were a popcorn family,” he said.
Lindsey started her popcorn shop just out of college in 2008. With the help of her father, she opened it in Columbia City and called it Kernel Coladas, and it has since expanded. Lindsey rebranded the business as Poptique, a gourmet popcorn store. Now, Gary runs the business without his daughter, who passed away earlier this year.
“There were a lot of things we didn’t know, and we expected Lindsey to come back,” he said. “On Friday, we thought she was coming home, Monday they said, ‘you might not make it through the night.’ So that’s how quick things changed.”
He never expected to run the business without Lindsey. In fact, they planned to phase him out of the job.
Before her death, one of Lindsey’s goals was to open a store in downtown Fort Wayne. They experimented with pop-up shops during the holiday season, but she died before her final dream was achieved.
“The last text that I got from her, she was in the hospital, and she said that they called and wanted to know if we could do Spring Pop, May 16, and I said, ‘we’ll make it happen,” Gary said. “So we made Spring Pop happen in this exact room right here on May 16, and at that point that was only three weeks after she passed away, so my mind wasn’t on, you know, doing anything.”
Her father says he had no doubt the business would continue after her death.
About six months after Lindsey died, her father opened the downtown Fort Wayne store in the City Exchange building, a new location on Wayne Street that has a variety of small shops within it.
Jim Garigen knew Lindsey when he ran his own food truck, and he now manages the downtown store. He says she inspired him with her entrepreneurial spirit, and is honored to carry on Lindsey’s vision.
“It’s been exciting, and I’m actually very proud to be a part of it,” Garigen said. “Any time something like this happens, where somebody comes to talk to Gary and I can hear the emotion in his voice, you know, I feel it as well.”
Even though Gary sometimes tears up when he remembers Lindsey, it helps to talk about her.
“It makes me cry. It chokes me up. A lot of times people apologize, and it’s like no, don’t apologize,” Gary said. “That may happen the rest of my life, I don’t know.”
Gary says the store lost a big part of her creativity, but he will continue to build on what she started.
Who doesn't like popcorn?
On the north side of town there’s another gourmet popcorn business that also has a strong family connection. It’s called Popping Temptations and was started by 24-year-old Lauren Damerell. She says she got the idea when she saw popcorn shops in Michigan. She decided her public relations and advertising degree would be more fun if she used it to open a popcorn store in Fort Wayne.
Diane Thackeray came to Popping Temptations to pick out a gift for her husband.
“I wanted to get him something different.”
Lauren was encouraged to start the business by her father, Brian Damerell, who has started other businesses.
“I mean, it would be really hard if I had to do this by myself,” she said.
Lauren says her mother and brother also help.
“There’s a lot of family in this store if you haven’t caught on to that,” she said.
She knows there’s a bit of competition between the two Fort Wayne popcorn businesses, but says they also help each other by bringing more visibility to the product.
Akin to the Hively family, Brian Damerell says popcorn brings back memories like family camping trips.
“I enjoy the different flavors, but I’m the old butter guy,” he said. “I used to make popcorn at least two to three times a week at home to eat, so quite honestly, I come in and pop fresh popcorn every day, and that’s what I nibble on.”
His daughter knew there would be a market for it.
“Who doesn’t like popcorn?”
And in last year’s interview with Julia Meek, Lindsey Hively agrees.
“My dad, he bought a popcorn popper. So we had always thrown around different ideas for which businesses we would start when I finished my schooling, and we started the research process and thought, ‘Hey, everybody has to like popcorn, so let’s just turn this into a business,’” Lindsey said.
There are savory flavors, like dill pickle and buffalo wings, and sweet flavors, like caramel and chocolate.
At Poptique, Lindsey Hively created s’mores flavor, which has marshmallows, graham pieces and chocolate drizzle. Lauren Damerell of Popping Temptations enjoys creating new flavors as well. One of her favorites is peanut butter and jelly.
Lindsey Hively was posthumously inducted into the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame, and her dad says there are now scholarships in her name. Despite her short life, Gary Hively hopes his daughter’s memory lives on in her popcorn shop and in Northeast Indiana.
Despite having a bit of friendly competition between both popcorn shops, both families hope to create unique flavors in Northeast Indiana and to make new traditions for other families.