Popped! owner fulfills dream of owning business


“I try to keep it as locally based as I can,” said Gwen Rosenberg, 38, of Kent. Rosenberg is the owner and manager of Popped!, located in Acorn Alley II. She makes all her popcorn daily from scratch, and said that all the ingredients she uses are from Ohio. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Deanna Meadows

Ohio-grown, all natural, no artificial colors or flavors. Gwen Rosenberg, when describing her product, could also be describing herself. Rosenberg owns a popcorn store called Popped! — yes, with an exclamation point at the end — that seems to hinge on her own character.

“I wanted something simple,” Rosenberg said, referring to the name of the business, which opened in January in Acorn Alley II. “I didn’t want a name that would cause people to question, ‘What is that?’”

Rosenberg, a 35-year-old wife and mother of four boys, said she was ready to begin a new adventure. She loved making popcorn and had been relentless in creating the perfect homemade caramel popcorn recipe. When these two elements made their obvious intersection, Rosenberg realized her niche: a popcorn store. She then made the leap and signed a lease for a second-level Acorn Alley store when the location was still just a “patch of dirt.”

“I’ve had people tell me that they’ve always wanted to have their own business,” Rosenberg said as she prepared the day’s first batches of popcorn. “I say, ‘What’s stopping you? Just do it.’”

Rosenberg, a Kent resident, says she works a “zillion hours” running the store solo but plans to hire extra help in the near future. She likened her dedication to raising babies.

“You put the time in and do what must be done without over thinking it,” she said as she mixed and turned a fresh batch of “Firehouse” popcorn with a smile on her face.

Rosenberg is certainly guilty of babying her product. She admits that she is obsessive about ingredients. She offers various flavored or artistic renditions of popcorn at Popped! Her most popular are caramel, vegan kettle, white cheddar cheese, caramel with peanuts, an interestingly sweet-and-spicy “Firehouse” and “Rocky Road Construction on Erie Street,” a novelty.

“Popcorn is a great canvas,” Rosenberg said. “You can do whatever you want with it.”

She recalled the first time popcorn made its impression on her. In second grade, Rosenberg’s older sister, Debbe, was making caramel popcorn for a class project.

“I remember how it smelled so good coming out of the oven,” she said, taking a deep breath in. “It rocked my world.”

Rosenberg’s love of popcorn and hard work are paying off. She and Popped! are a hit in Kent.

Lauren Heroux, a Kent State alumna, visits about every other week.

“I love it,” Heroux said with a glowing expression. “To me, it’s the best caramel corn ever because you can taste the real butter in it.”

Heroux manages Tree City Coffee, another store in Acorn Alley II.

She said she will often leave herself extra time when stopping at Popped! because Rosenberg is someone you “can just hang out with.”

“I have to pry myself away,” Heroux said.

Emily Carver, an employee at Off The Wagon, said she toured the Acorn Alley II complex with her coworkers and stopped in at Popped!

“It’s awesome,” Carver said. “The caramel popcorn is to die for.”

Rosenberg said the construction around town is a temporary inconvenience. She knows that better days are ahead.

“Progress isn’t painless,” she said matter-of-factly.

Judging by her demeanor, Rosenberg finds a profound way of keeping things simple. This, combined with her infectious friendliness, is as much a draw as her deliciously crafted popcorn.

Contact Deanna Meadows at [email protected].