It all started with a familiar, flavorful scent.
Mark Peña was at a blues concert with his mother, who he cared for as she was blind and disabled, as the overwhelming scent of freshly popping kettle corn demanded that they both try a taste.
After enjoying that the taste matched the tantalizing smell, Peña made sure he took some home with him. He joked with friends that it was so good he’d have to start his own popcorn business.
Three weeks later, he bought his first kettle.
Now Peña and his girlfriend Michele Buckler have a central location in Milford to make a variety of popcorn flavors, from classics like caramel and white cheddar to intriguingly delicious combinations like bacon cheddar and baked enchilada.
More than 20 flavors are in regular rotation at Delmarva Popcorn & Nut Co., although Peña has probably dabbled with more than 50 flavor ideas since really starting to pop when he bought that first kettle in 1997.
“We do stuff they don’t do other places, like down at the shore, and we have to, because that’s what sets us apart,” Peña said.
After finding a following by taking his kettle to renaissance fairs, craft shows and farmers markets, Peña and Buckler found the perfect place to settle down at the new location at the corner of North Walnut Street and Rehoboth Boulevard.
“Milford is an up and coming town,” Buckler said. “This business is unique.”
But the focus is really on keeping the business local, said both Peña and Buckler. The popcorn kernels, which are mushroom kernels, not butterfly kernels like most mass-produced popcorn, are sourced as locally as possible, from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. The store’s nuts come from Salisbury, Md.
“We want to provide local products and have some fun doing it,” Peña said.
No preservatives are used in the popcorn, and since the shelf-life of the gourmet popcorn, like sour cream n chives or parmesan garlic, is only about three days, the business also takes an opportunity to reach out to local organizations in need.
Peña said he has donated unsold popcorn to places like Home of the Brave or local fire companies, so that it doesn’t go to waste and people can still enjoy an interesting flavor variety of a tried and true snack. In the end, it’s just all about keeping business within the community.
The store owners are also hoping to branch out into other locally-sourced items like hummus and coffee in the future.
Page 2 of 2 - But for now, they’re just doing their part to offer an affordable snack in a convenient location.
“[Peña] does a phenomenal product,” Buckler said. “Popcorn is an affordable comfort food that people in this economy can enjoy and indulge in. Popcorn is the snack food of 2013.”