Chenez’s Popcorn in Lockport is family’s dream come true
By Rikki Cason
From sweet to savory and everything in between, a local couple has been working over the last two years to bring their popcorn dreams to life.
What started as a family project has since grown into a successful business and Todd and Karla Chenez recently opened their first store front.
In April, Chenez’s Popcorn opened in the Lockview Plaza, in the former Subway and Lockport TV locations.
The Chenez’s want to make their new store a destination for the area. There will be taste testing available for all of their flavors. Candy, pop and other novelty items will fill the space, such as seasonal favorites and popcorn balls.
Their Carolina Reaper pepper – the world’s hottest pepper — flavored popcorn will also be sold, and friends are encouraged to stop in and challenge each other to see who can eat this spicy option.
Those traveling on Pine Street and Main Street will may notice a popcorn aroma filling the air.
Inside the retail space, a window has been installed so customers can watch the popcorn-popping process.
“We want this to be a really cool experience, not just a store where they come in, buy something and leave,” Todd said.
Chenez’s Popcorn currently offers 31 flavors from the savory to the sweet. Popular flavors include Chocolate Covered Cherry, Carmel Drizzle, Buffalo Cheddar, Salt and Vinegar and Dill Pickle.
“Customers always say whatever it says, that’s what it taste likes,” Todd said. “If it’s peanut butter, it tastes like peanut butter. If it’s cotton candy, it tastes like cotton candy. Loaded baked potato, cheese burger … it tastes like it sounds.”
This new space will allow for flavor expansion, with the goal being to offer around 100 flavors.
Karla said they already have a ton of suggestions from customers on possible flavors additions, and when developing these new flavors, they want to take their time to perfect them.
The store will allow for taste testing of new flavors. They plan to let customers try the potential flavors and give feedback before they are officially launched.
“That’s going to be really fun to do,” Todd said.
Chenez’s Popcorn got its official start in 2017, but it was in the summer of 2016 when the business started to take shape.
Their son, Joe, was playing travel baseball, so the family of four went to the Pennsylvania area to watch the games.
Their daughter Lilly was not a baseball fan and had to tag along for some “forced family fun,” as Todd jokingly called it.
Though she wasn’t a fan of watching her brother play baseball, she did love popcorn, so Karla researched places they could get popcorn where they were visiting. The family went to those places to try different flavors and really enjoyed themselves.
Todd suggested they order the ingredients to make their own popcorn at home on the stove. So they did. They started making and eating popcorn. They then brought popcorn to their friends and family to try, who also loved it.
During the Christmas season in 2016, those who had tried the popcorn started asking Todd and Karla to make them large batches that they could give popcorn gifts. Todd said after that, the business didn’t stop.
“People ask whose idea it was, but when you think about it there are four of us,” he said. “If one of us were missing out of that equation it never would have happened. Joey playing baseball, Lilly liking popcorn, Karla looking it up and me making the suggestion to make it at home. Each one of us four has something to do with it, which is so nice. We got to hang out together.”
Though the kids are now older and doing their own thing, Karla and Todd look at this business as their “next chapter.”
“We will make popcorn for as long as people want to keep buying it,” Karla said.
They are excited to have moved their business out of their basement and onto Main Street in Lockport, where they can be more involved in the local community.
Karla said they will have a display showing ideas, such as popcorn for weddings or showers. People will be able to select colors and flavors they want the popcorn to be. Such as pink or blue for a baby shower or green popcorn for St. Patrick’s Day.
“Tell me what you want and we’ll do it,” Todd said. “That’s the fun part of it.”
They also recently started offering fundraiser opportunities for schools and organizations where groups can sell various flavors of popcorn.
“They make money and they’re selling it for us, spreading the word,” Todd said. “And it’s different. It’s not the same old thing.”
Chenez’s Popcorn will continue to participate in area vendor and craft fairs, where they have enjoyed meeting new people and bringing smiles to faces.
Todd said he loves when he interacts with someone at an event who is in a grumpy mood from walking around in the hot sun all day. They offer taste testing of their popcorn flavors, which allows people to find one they like.
“My goal is for them to walk out with a bag and a smile on their face,” he said.
Chenez’s Popcorn will still be available to order online through www.cenezspopcorn.com or in a number of different locations around Western New York, listed on the website. The hours the new store will be open have yet to be decided on, but they will be open year-round and have extended hours during the summer and peak tourism season.
“Our slogan is from plain to insane to burn your mouth hot popcorn,” Todd said. “When you think of popcorn this is going to be the place.”
Chenez Popcorn is located in Lockview Plaza, 21 Main St., Lockport. For more information, visit Chenez's Popcorn on Facebook.