When Barbara Carrothers lived in Chicago, her favorite snack was flavored popcorn—a popular offering in the area. When her corporate job brought a move to Atlanta in 1998, she was surprised to discover that shops selling the treat were hard to find.
“I started making my own, experimenting with flavors,” she said. The batches she gave to friends drew rave reviews. In September 2011, she decided to make popcorn her fulltime business. Then in February she opened Devon’s Gourmet Popcorn in North DeKalb Mall.
“I wanted to open earlier, but I learned that the end of the year is not a good time to try to open a business. The people you need to see to get through the paperwork just aren’t as available,” she said. Carrothers added, however, that the local business community has been supportive and helpful. “People were always there to point me in the right direction.”
Carrothers said she chose the Decatur location because she believes that even though it has experienced a slump, North DeKalb Mall is coming back. “And I want to be here when it does,” she added. “Because the mall had seen some tough times, space here was a good value, and I’m confident that it’s on the upswing.”
Devon’s Gourmet Popcorn doesn’t depend just on mall traffic for business; many of Carrothers’ customers are companies that order flavored popcorn as gifts to clients and employees or to serve at events. “I recently had an order for 3,000 bags from a big company here in Atlanta,” she said.
Although popcorn shops aren’t ubiquitous in the Atlanta area as they are in Chicago, Carrothers acknowledges that there is competition. She said, however, that her “premium ingredients and signature touches” result in a superior product. “I make all of my popcorn fresh from scratch. I never use a mix,” she said. “And that makes a big difference.”
Devon’s Gourmet Popcorn also offers flavors that customers won’t find at other stores. One such flavor came from a mistake. “I accidently put twice as much caramel as I was supposed to in a batch,” she recalled. “I was going to throw it out, but my husband said, ‘No, it’s good. Sell it as double caramel.’ I did and now double caramel is one of our most requested flavors. I have customers who swear they don’t like caramel. They sample this and always end up ordering some.”
Taste testing the product isn’t the limit of family involvement. Carrothers describes Devon’s Gourmet Popcorn as a family business, explaining that her husband and children all work there. In fact, the business is named for her youngest son, who died in childhood. “Putting his name in the name of the business is a way of keeping him with us,” she said.
The shop offers a core of 14 sweet and savory flavors, including cheddar cheese, white cheddar, barbecue cheddar, bacon barbecue cheddar, spicy cheddar and an assortment of fruit flavors. There also are two specialty blends—the Chicago mix and the Atlanta mix, that Carrothers said are very popular. Customers also are invited to create their own blends.