Patch Passport VIDEO: Hidden Gem – The Popcorn Factory Patch Passport VIDEO: Hidden Gem – The Popcorn Factory

By Bruce Himmelblau

Best known for its online service, there is a store open to consumers at the company’s Lake Forest address.

The Popcorn Factory has been part of the unincorporated area of Lake Forest for more than 30 years, residing at 13970 W. Laurel Drive.

Over that time, the company has expanded to incorporate two buildings covering 140,000 square feet of production space dedicated to producing popcorn.

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JIM POWERS: Hi, this is Jim Powers. I’m with Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Patch, we’re here at the Popcorn Factory in Lake Forest, and this is the start of a series of stories that we’re going to be running this week called Passport to Your Town. Where you get to know places and things to do that are within the borders of your own town.
And one of the places that we thought that we would start off with, a place we consider a hidden gem is here at the Popcorn Factory. A place that is within the area of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, but maybe a lot of people don’t know that. We’re here with Alan Petrik, the Chief Operating Officer with the Popcorn Factory.

Tell me about the buildings and how you’ve expanded during the period that you’ve been here.

ALAN PETRIK: The Popcorn Factory has been here about 32 years now. I think we’re going into our 33rd year of business here in 2011 and we’ve been building since the beginning. We’ve grown and grown taking over more and more of the facility but now he own or take care of 140,000 feet here in Lake Forest just off of Bradley Road here in the unincorporated Lake Forest.

JIM POWERS: So, have you actually built on to existing building or was it always here?

ALAN PETRIK: There were always two buildings here they were connected about 15 years ago with a corridor. But the two buildings were here ahead of us and we have totally consumed inside and done a lot remodeling on the inside of the buildings.

JIM POWERS: Is part of that due to the demand of the product?

ALAN PETRIK: Business has grow over the years. We’ve been primarily a catalog, Internet direct to the consumer and corporate business. Over the years as we grow and grabbed market share. We’re a national shipper of popcorn gifts. As a matter-of-fact about a third of them are here in the Midwest and most of our customers don’t even known we’re here. But here we are in Lake Forest were standing here in our retail store. We continue to grow and meet the needs of our consumers.

JIM POWERS: So if people don’t want to necessarily buy your products online, they can actually come in here buy it as well?

ALAN PETRIK: They can. We’re here for them everyday of the week five days a week and sometimes here on Saturdays when the when the holidays around and we’re generally here from 10 to 5.

JIM POWERS: So explain how your demand changes during the course of the year as far as ramping up, ramping down.

ALAN PETRIK: Be happy to. Where you are slow period. Really what I consider a planning time. We have about six month planning and really about three months is very serious execution. So we do about 68% of our business in the October, November, December period. So while it’s very quiet here today and were able to talk to each other in normal voice in October it would be a lot noisier here as we ramp up over 300 people.

JIM POWERS: How does that apply to the product in terms of how much you produce during the course of a year?

ALAN PETRIK: The profile follows, as we ramp up and bring more employees in. All of our pounds that we produce are generally are done. We’re just starting some of our production here in later July and then we’ll build through August and September and then October, November, December is when we really ship very heavily.

JIM POWERS: So how much are going to keep it is there any year?

ALAN PETRIK: We’ll ship over 1 million a half gifts a year here. Again, about two thirds of those going out on October, November, December. We pop all our corn here fresh. We use custom hybrids that come for us under our specification. In various flavors that we make for butter cheese caramel and all our specialty flavors. Everything is made here in-house, packed here in house and shipped from here.

JIM POWERS: How many pounds of pop corn can that be?

ALAN PETRIK: How many pounds? Well we go over a million pounds of raw corn, popped every year. It comes from various parts of the country that meet the spec again on the type of corn. And we flavor it and that converts to the gifts that we just mentioned, over a million gifts a year.

JIM POWERS: How many different flavors do you have?

ALAN PETRIK: I think, right now this point there’s probably about 15 or so. I think we have a list of well over 60 or 70 flavors that we made over the years we bring him back on and off and every year we try to introduce a couple of new ones. We have a Thai flavor coming out this Fall we have a chocolate with sea salt coming out this Fall we have peppercorn coming out this Fall. So, we always try to Pepper in a few flavors every now and then.

JIM POWERS: So where is your store located?

ALAN PETRIK: Well, we’re standing in the middle store right now. It’s 13970 Laurel Drive in Lake Forest. We’re just off of Bradley Road just south of Lambs Farm.

JIM POWERS: And you’re actually part of a bigger company.

ALAN PETRIK: We are. We’re one of food group of 1-800, our parent company. There’re many of us in the food business and we continue to work together and make great gifts together.

JIM POWERS: So that accounts for some of the other products here in the store?

ALAN PETRIK: Yes, we have things that are made for us to our specifications by our sister companies.

JIM POWERS: And, what would you say is the best part of your job?

ALAN PETRIK: Coming to work everyday, having a smile on my face and eating popcorn everyday. I try to eat one of the flavors everyday. We do a lot of product sampling here internally our team is very engaged and I really enjoyed being here.

Produced and edited by Blue Sky Video Productions

For more information, call 1-888-216-0235 or visit their website.

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