SYCAMORE – For Ryan and Stephanie Hopper, opening up their gourmet popcorn shop, Hopper’s Poppers, in downtown Sycamore was like a homecoming dream come true.
The shop located at 422 W. State St. next to Sycamore State Theater opened in August and is the second location of the family-owned business.
“This is a perfect location for Hopper’s Poppers,” said Ryan Hopper, a Sycamore native. “It’s the perfect size and I’ve always been a part of downtown Sycamore. Owning a small business is basically in our family’s blood. We couldn’t think of a better opportunity.”
The building was previously occupied by a barber shop. Ryan Hopper acquired the 700-square-foot space in May, but wasn’t able to move in until the beginning of August. The shop had a quick 10-day construction and served its first customers on Aug. 14.
Hopper’s Poppers Reel Theater Popcorn has been available next door at the theater owned by Ryan’s parents, Kenley and Daryl Hopper, since 2000. Ryan Hopper began making popcorn for the theater in 2010 and hasn’t looked back.
“I made popcorn for farmers markets, craft shows. … Anywhere I could get the popcorn in, I was there,” he said.
Ryan and Stephanie Hopper opened the first Hopper’s Poppers location last year in Oregon, Illinois.
Coincidentally, the vacant space next door to the Oregon shop used to be a movie theater. Ryan said once things slow down with his family and business, he intends to purchase and re-open the vacant theater.
Ryan Hopper admitted business in Sycamore has been a bit slower than expected. He attributed the early lack of business to the time of year.
“It has taken a couple months to get going,” he said. “I was kind of surprised because I’ve had my popcorn out here for a very long time. It’s been a little slower compared to Oregon, but we’re confident in what we’re doing here.”
Ryan manages the Sycamore store, while Stephanie handles Oregon’s operations. Hopper’s Poppers employs a manager, who helps out at at the Oregon store, along with 12 part-time employees.
The couple said they have enough popcorn equipment to open up at least two more stores, but added they are content with their current situation.
Hopper’s Poppers offers a variety of popcorn flavors including cheese, chocolate and cake, but the most popular flavor is caramel. The couple spent more than three months perfecting the recipe.
“The caramel has always been our best seller,” Ryan Hopper said. “I wanted our caramel to be a sweeter, lighter flavor. It was all about mixing ingredients and trying to find out the best mixture.”