East Idaho Eats: The Popcorn Shop offers so much more

POCATELLO – The Popcorn Shop is Pocatello’s home for gourmet and specialty popcorn. But the family store offers much more.

Owner Christy Kelshaw proudly declares The Popcorn Shop one of the very few classic candy stores in town. The shop also offers baked goodies, like cookies and fudge, as well as local classics, like what Kelshaw called School District 25’s famous peanut butter candy and “deity” fudge.

Pop corn. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

The lesser-known “and more” in the company name also includes the philanthropic work that has been part of the company’s roots since it opened in 2003.

According to Kelshaw, the daughter of the company’s founders and original owners, Sharon and Harley Bennett, has donated more than $100,000 to charities around the world.

“We like to eat,” Kelshaw said, adding that her parents give the same answer every time they’re asked why they started the popcorn store. “We love good food and we love people. It was a way to combine the two things and be able to create something unique and special.

The “how” behind the genesis of Pocatello’s popcorn shop is just as interesting as the “why.”

Harley explained that just before opening the store, he had pastored a church in Montana, but knew his time doing so was coming to an end. They learned the ins and outs of the popcorn business at a popcorn store, sold their house, and set out to find a landing spot for their family and new business.

They found an ideal building in Pocatello and planned to make a cash offer, but they were $20,000 short of the asking price. Knowing that time was running out, with other interested buyers lurking around, the spiritual family asked for help.

“We prayed and asked God if he wanted us to have a popcorn store in Pocatello. “Give us a person who had $20,000,” Sharon recalled.

The very next day, an angel investor showed up with an interest in Bennett’s business plan. But he was limited in what he could offer. According to Sharon, the investor only had $20,000 to invest.

“We really couldn’t afford to make a huge financial mistake,” said Harley, who continued to minister in local churches and prisons after moving to Idaho. “But everything went very well.”

Harley, left, and Sharon Bennett. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

A former teacher with a soft spot for children lacking the necessities, Sharon sent The Popcorn Shop and More on the path to philanthropy.

“They really wanted to see the effects of the business spread around the world,” Kelshaw said.

With Kelshaw spearheading the operation, the shop’s candy inventory has grown exponentially, recently adding shirts and hats for popcorn lovers.

They also hired a graduate of the College of Southern Idaho culinary arts program to bring new items to the shelves. And, as Kelshaw explained, all other hired employees are encouraged to explore their own talents, whether it’s decorating cookies or creating popcorn flavors.

Harley called watching the store staff become more like family than co-workers “very, very satisfying,” and it’s thanks to her daughter’s collaboration.

“We like to hire people who can come in and work within their passion,” Kelshaw said. “Giving them the freedom to do that turns into amazing things.”

Highlighting these collaborative effort treats, Kelshaw asked EastIdahoNews.com to sample a selection of cookies, candies and fudge.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy was an exciting twist on a famous traditional candy. Creamy peanut butter mixed with Rice Krispies and covered in chocolate is something you won’t know you want until you try. And the apple pie caramel is soft, chewy, and delicious, even for someone who doesn’t usually like caramel.

Candies, including clusters of chocolate covered peanuts. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

See what other treats are available alongside Blueberry-Cheddar and Mint-Chocolate Popcorn at The Popcorn Shop and More’s website. Or just stop by 421 East Oak Street in Pocatello – they’re open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

You can also see what Kelshaw and his team have coming up by visiting their Facebook page.

Laura J. Boyer