Q: Where did the term kettle corn come from and what is kettle corn?

A: Kettle corn is a four ingredient product: Popcorn, oil, salt and sugar. There is no butter in it. Where it comes from, I’m not sure. There are many fanciful stories about its origins. My best guess would probably be that it came from Europe in the mid-1600s, or Germany. Most Europeans eat their popcorn with sugar in it, not butter. 

Q: How did you get into the kettle corn-making business?

A: On a lark. My wife, Loretta, and I used to help our friends Bob and Cyndy Dow make bloomin’ onions and onion rings for a booth at Harvest Fest in York every year. A guy at the booth next to ours made kettle corn and he seemed to have good success selling his product. We saw it as a great way to make extra cash. So we pooled our resources, bought the equipment and started making it at weekend fairs and festivals in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. We incorporated in 2003 and started our company in 2004. 

Q: When did you open your shop?

A: This will be our fifth season at York Beach and our second season in Kennebunkport (at the Shops at Union Square). Everything is made in our York shop and shipped here. 

Q: How many flavors do you make?

A: Twenty-four or 25. We make our original kettle corn and several different flavors of savory corn, caramel corn, cheese corn, chocolate and candy corns. Of those we have seven caramel flavors, including Boon Island Caramel, a popular peanut butter caramel drizzled with dark chocolate and Reeses peanut butter cups. We also have many cheese corn flavors like Salt ‘n Vinegar White Cheddar, Ranch Cheddar, Honey Mustard Cheddar and flavors called Cha Cha Cheddar and Cheddarpeno. 

Q: Where did those recipes of flavor combinations come from?

A: All by trial and error. You have to have an understanding of food ingredients and their properties in pairing flavors. We’ve made some whopper mistakes along the way that never made it to our showroom and created some fan favorites. Some are only available for a limited time, like one we (retired) called Mocha Choca-Latte YaYa, a coffee-flavored caramel, drizzled with white chocolate. Everything we sell, we make fresh daily and that includes our own caramel. It’s not a sauce, it’s actually a candy-making process. We are always playing around with flavors and we like to try new things. Soon, we’ll be releasing a new candied bacon caramel corn. 

Q: Do you have seasonal blends?

A: Yes. For instance, we’ll offer a red, white and blue candy corn blend for Fourth of July, it’s a combination of our candy corn flavors like blueberry, cherry and pi?olada. Our candy corn comes in many colors and flavors. We sell some of that for fundraisers (using school colors) and we also make wedding favors with custom labels. That information and how to order it is available on our website. 

Q: How long does it take to make one batch of the corn?

A: For the kettle corn, it’s a three-minute process. For our other popcorn products, like candy corn or caramel corn, it’s a several step process that requires popping, coating, drizzling and cooling. It’s lot more involved and could take up to two hours. 

Q: What are your best sellers?

A: Kettle corn, hands down, followed by our savory olive oil and sea salt popcorn, which is popular with women. It’s tender, tasty and lower in calories. 

Q: Do you offer free samples? 

A: Yes. It’s a big part of our business. There are so many flavors to choose from. Though, we don’t sample our chocolate or nut-based products for safety and cost reasons. Good quality chocolate is expensive and some people have nut allergies. 

Q: What is the price range for the product?

A: From just under $5 to $11 for bags ranging from ranging from 3 to 24 ounces. Those come package in clear poly bags that are heat-sealed and resealable to keep the popcorn fresh longer. 

Q: What are the tools of your trade? What’s in your kitchen?

A: Some pretty heavy duty commercial equipment for popping corn, melting chocolate, processing cheese and making caramel, baking sheets and packaging goods. 

Q: How big is your popping crew?

A: We have nine or 10 employees in summer, most of them college age or adults. It takes four people to run the store and keep it stocked all day. And, with our Kennebunkport store, sometimes we have to make a few extra deliveries on a busy summer day. Especially if you’re sampling a product. That’s the one everyone wants to buy. 

Q: What are your hours? 

A: We are a seasonal business that is open from April to mid-October. Right now, we’re open seven days a week, through Labor Day, from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. in York and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Kennebunkport. We have limited hours after that as crowds taper off. Folks should check out our Facebook page, which is updated daily with hour changes and other information. And we’re also open for special events. Last year, one of our busiest days was Dec. 4. We opened our Kennebunkport shop for Christmas Prelude and it was insanely busy.