By Yadira Sanchez Olson
If you’ve never eaten taffy grapes or tasted bacon-pecan caramel popcorn, then you haven’t been to the newly-opened Gordon’s Gourmet Popcorn Shop in downtown Waukegan.
This month, the shop opened its doors at 310 N. Genesee St. to a flock of customers wanting to consume something unique and tasty.
The shop is in a plaza near the post office.
Inside, customers can find windowed counters displaying different kinds of popcorn to entice their palate.
Owner Gregory Todd Gordon Sr.’s favorite is the cheese and caramel combo.That’s also his best seller, he said.
“I want to get so well-known that when I say popcorn, people say Gordon’s,” Gordon Sr. said.
His business is off to a good start. On Wednesday, Waukegan resident Judy Ptasienski stopped in to buy the popular cheese and caramel mix.
“It’s my first time here,” Ptasienski said. “I keep hearing about it so I decided to come and check it out.”
While she was making her choices, other customers walked in to order what they wanted and made conversation about the weather and other pleasantries.
They expressed pleasure with a new place to gather and enjoy a treat.
“Popcorn is something almost everyone likes,” Ptasienski said. “I know I love it.”
The full list of flavors offered at the Gordon’s Gourmet Popcorn Shop are: Heavenly white cheddar, cheese —which Gordon calls “Say Cheese” popcorn, caramel, bacon-pecan caramel and the combination of cheese and caramel.
For those who need a drink after munching on their popcorn treats, a juice bar is there to quench their thirst with a variety of drinks —slushies, soda, lemonade and tea.
Gordon said opening a shop was never the plan. Initially, he wanted to help his fiancee, Hannah Jackson, drum up more business in the shop she owns next door to the popcorn store.
He thought that if he sold popcorn out of her store, people would want to come in to see what was new, in addition to the clothes, candy, purses and accessories Jackson sells at QueenHannah’s.
After running into some barriers with the water lines in Jackson’s store, though, he decided the vacant storefront next door was a better spot for the popcorn-selling idea.
The juice bar was added because the extra space was available.
He invested in commercial equipment and took lessons on how to make caramel popcorn from a popcorn-making company. Gordon got busy building himself what he needed to go along with the commercial equipment he bought and “I ended up owning a popcorn shop,” he said.
As a maintenance worker, Gordon Sr. never thought he'd be in a kitchen making popcorn starting as early as 6 in the morning.
“Cheese is pretty easy but caramel is more challenging,” Gordon Sr. said.
His first batches of the caramel were not good, he said, but with practice he got better. And he continues to perfect the craft daily, he added.
“Seeing people come in smiling and congratulating me is worth all the work,” Gordon Sr. said.
Gordon Sr. said his two adult children co-own the business with him. Photos of Gregory Todd Gordon Jr. and Santana Barbara Gordon sit on a counter near the register.
The father said growing up in Waukegan, he knows there hasn’t been a popcorn shop in many years, even in neighboring cities like North Chicago and Zion.
Gordon Sr. hopes the shop does so well that he’s able to open in other locations in Lake County.
For now, he's busy getting the word out about the Waukegan location, and he’s coming up with unique ideas, like the taffy grapes, cherries and strawberries.
He’s happy that already he’s had other local businesses inquire about getting his popcorn to offer at their events.
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