After three years in Olde Mistick Village, specialty food store still poppin'

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Mystic — To walk into Pop on the Block is to have your expectations about potential popcorn flavors – and potential popcorn colors — exceeded and defied.

Yes, there's butter and kettle and white cheddar. But the varieties also come in sweet options like grape, sea salt caramel, peanut butter and jelly, cookies and cream, and cinnamon sugar, and savory ones like dill pickle, Maryland crab, sour cream and chives, and hot jalapeno.

Manager Judy Karam said the top sellers are Maryland crab, garlic parmesan, and caramel and cheddar.

Their hues extend from shades of yellow, orange and tan to red, pink, purple and teal, whether it's to reflect a unique flavor or a seasonal mix, such as the red, white and blue bags out for Memorial Day.

Summer seasonal flavors include piña colada, pineapple and watermelon, while they might include cranberry and mint in the winter, Karam said.

Mother-and-son co-founders Lisa Rose and Justin Hetherington started the specialty popcorn store with a flagship location on Block Island in 2016, and now there are locations in Smithfield, Rhode Island and Mystic.

The Mystic shop has been in Olde Mistick Village for three years, but it recently expanded from its tiny shop adjacent Mystic Luxury Cinemas to a larger spot between Smith's Boutique, Kitch, Franklin's General Store and the chapel. Karam said the increased visibility has been helpful.

It relocated in May and held a grand opening last Saturday, with samples and raffles. Signs around the store read "Let's get this party poppin'" and "Dill pickle?!? It's kind of a big dill!!"

"This is my kind of store," East Granby resident Denise Tomalonis said, carrying a bag of bacon cheddar popcorn under her arm. A popcorn lover, she said she adds barbecue seasoning meant for chicken to popcorn when making it at home.

On the day of the grand opening, there were at least 38 flavors in the store, but Karam said there are even more. The butter, kettle and almost naked bags sell for $3.99 each, while flavored bags are $6.99 or three for $20.

The shop also sells dessert pizzas made with pretzels and Oreos, seasonings, air poppers and popcorn buckets. Employees — there are four in addition to Karam — also create custom gift baskets for events such as birthdays, baby showers and weddings.

Outside of the shop, Pop on the Block does pairings at local wineries and is a presence at local farmers markets, including the ones at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center and in Westerly.

Pop on the Block donates a quarter of its proceeds from bubblegum popcorn sales to Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.

Karam said that along with the variety, what appeals to people is the "old-fashioned type of customer service." Customers can also order online.

It's "a fun store," she said. "It's popping with energy, you know what I mean?"


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