While in my car at some point last week, I happened to catch a snippet of a conversation on WKNO – NPR for the Mid-South about what the mayor and a few non-profits are doing to make sure black businesses get an equitable chance in bidding for contracts.
The points they were making weren’t immediately lost to me, even to a new guy from up north. There are lots of great businesses that call Memphis home: FedEx, International Paper, and AutoZone, just to name a few. But black and minority-owned businesses often don’t get a seat at the table, and I was encouraged by the short conversation I heard on the radio that something is being done about that here in Memphis.
To that end, I decided to stop by a black-owned business that I pass by practically everyday on my way home from work. Anyone who knows me knows that my go-to snack is popcorn, so when I saw Pop-A-Roos Gourmet Popcorn Shoppe, I knew I had to stop by. When your tag line is, “It’s on and poppin’,” you know you’re in store for a delicious treat.
I went towards the end of the day, but I was immediately greeted with a warm smile by Ms. Ephie, the owner and proprietor of the store. She shared with me that the store has been around for three years, and has mainly relied on word of mouth to share what makes it so special. Now, I must say that the décor is rather unassuming and doesn’t speak gourmet boutique: there’s a simple counter displaying the flavors of popcorn that are available, and the popping space is in the back. Ms. Ephie explained that they get a lot of large batch orders for corporate clients, so it made sense to me that it wouldn’t be so focused on decorations. None of this mattered to me if the popcorn was as delicious as I had anticipated it to be.
A word about flavors; Pop-A-Roos advertises 22 different flavors, but depending on when you visit they may be out of them for the day. Some of the most unexpected flavors include green apple, banana, and buffalo ranch, but there are the traditional kettle corn, caramel, and toffee lite available, too. I lucked up and they had the flavor I wanted—sharp cheddar—and also one I was curious about—oreo cheesecake. Ms. Ephie offered a sample, and I decided to get a $20 bag of the sharp cheddar and a $3 tub of the oreo cheesecake.
The popcorn was truly delicious. The oreo cheesecake didn’t even last an hour, and I nibbled on the sharp cheddar–$20 gets you a lot of popcorn—throughout the weekend. A word to the wise though: this popcorn is messy. The powder that is used will coat your fingers, but licking it off can be part of the fun. All-in-all, I’d advise you call first to make sure the flavor you want is still available, and then head on over to Pop-A-Roos. Tell Ms. Ephie that Steven sent you.
I’m going to do my best to patronize more black and minority-owned businesses in the city, and urge you to do the same. If you have any recommendations, please let me know by commenting below. There’s a ton out there that would benefit from spreading the word, and that’s the only way that I would find out about them, so spread away.