BUFFALO, N.Y. — One small business is popping on the West Side of Buffalo, quite literally.
"My grandfather asked us 'you guys just get involved in this to just create flavors or are you guys getting involved in this to take over the popcorn industry?'" Stefan Coker said. "I think we had to think about that for a second, you know, and we're gonna take over the popcorn industry."
That’s exactly what What’s Pop-In owners Coker and his business partner David Whelan are doing with their gourmet popcorn business.
Coker and Whelen have worked in various restaurants in Buffalo over the years, and they're using their background as chefs to create flavors you wouldn’t normally pair with popcorn.
What they're creating is something truly incredible.
"We just used to joke around at Larkin Square, about starting up this funny, popcorn business," Coker said.
With over a dozen flavors you would think there were mad-scientists in the back conjuring up new combinations. But in reality, the best-friend partners just shoot the breeze and throw ideas out there.
"What if we tried this and that and then we try it?" Whelen said.
While they have gourmet popcorn staples like cheddar and caramel, most of the flavors they developed you won't find elsewhere.
Garlic Parmesan, cinnamon toast, jalapeno popper, and dill pickle to name a few. Coker and Whelen have taken flavors familiar in a restaurant, created their own seasonings for their popcorn that, to be honest, you could pair with a meal if you wanted to.
"We can create a whole new lane of trail mix style popcorn, and show people that now this popcorn can be paired with a steak, it can be paired with a soup," Coker said. "We didn't expect it to take off as fast as it did."
What’s Pop-In is located on West Ferry Street and figured out a way to continue to expand during the pandemic.
"It was literally, like, we're just gonna shift to shipping and delivery," Whelen said. "There were days there was 15-20 deliveries."
Now the poppin’ duo have shipped product to all 50 states since March and internationally. Last week they expanded and opened a second location at the Niagara Falls Fashion Outlets.
"We didn't really expect it," Coker said. "But I am just so adamant about taking over the world, and I just love people's reactions when I say it because it has really motivated me, man."
But it’s not just about popcorn for Coker and Whelen, they want to bring the community along for the ride as well.
"I always say if we come together as a collaborative group of business owners, and it's not about just making sales and it's real interaction, businesses over on the west [side] we'll be doing 10 times more," Coker said. "I think sometimes we lose sight of how important it is to respect our customers, you know, that show love to us."
You can check out what's popping on their menu on their website.