WAYNE — Some entrepreneurs spend years looking for the perfect idea for a new business.
Then there are folks like Adam and Amy Manoucheri, who hit upon a great idea almost by accident.
To use a terrible pun, things are really popping at AquaPop, where the Manoucheris sell flavored popcorn, retro candy and craft sodas. Classic arcade video games, pinball machines and a Super Shot basketball game fill the front room of the business at 200 Main St.
When they bought their first popper, the Manoucheris didn’t plan to sell popcorn.
Amy, a photographer who also works at Farm Bureau Financial Services in nearby Wakefield, had decided to use the promise of popcorn to convince children to cooperate while having their pictures taken in her studio. Amy soon was trying recipes for kettle corn and cheese-flavored varieties.
“She added flavors just for fun, and it kind of snowballed,” Adam Manoucheri said.
Couples getting their engagement pictures taken would sample the popcorn and ask Amy to pop some for their wedding reception. Initially, it was something she did just for friends, but wedding guests liked it. Word of mouth spread and she began getting more requests.
It made the Manoucheris think. Amy’s studio and storefront took up half of their Main Street building, but the other side wasn’t being used for much.
“We had enough interest and thought maybe we should use this side to try the popcorn thing,” Adam said.
They invested in equipment that would enable them to make caramel corn and other coated flavors and renovated the business space, opening during the annual Wayne Chicken Show celebration in July 2017.
Adam said they had good traffic inside the business that first weekend.
“In the weeks after that is when we noticed it taking off a little bit,” he said.
A little bit grew into a lot. As the holiday season approached, more customers entered the store, buying bags of popcorn as gifts.
“That fall, we realized it was starting to pick up and become a monster — a good one. We really didn’t expect it,” said Adam, who’s also a pharmacist who works in O’Neill, Nebraska.
During the holidays, they were popping popcorn until 2 a.m. every day to keep up with the demand. Friends and family were enlisted to help.
Once the holidays passed, the Manoucheris had time to regroup as sales dropped to a more manageable level. They pop and flavor 12 50-pound cases of Jolly Time…