A year ago, Adam and Amy Manoucheri bought the building on the northwest corner of Second and Main streets in downtown Wayne with the intent of starting up a photography and music studio.
A funny thing happened along the way, however – and with it, a new business idea “popped” into town that has quickly become the place to go for tasty flavored popcorn.
While Aqua Pop’s current entrance on the south side of the building along Second Street is only open two days a week, it’s fast making a name for itself with the wide variety of flavored popcorn that is fast becoming a hit in the community (Editor’s Note: if you have an addiction to caramel popcorn, as the writer of this piece has, enter into this shop at your own risk. The caramel popcorn is THAT good – you have been warned.).
In fact, a scheduled interview with the owners was delayed for the better part of an hour, thanks to the seemingly never-ending line of customers who bought bags of cheddar, dill pickle and cherry mash-flavored popcorn by the armfuls.
“The first day I was here by myself, we sold out of everything we had, and we’d worked late the night before figuring we’d popped enough to get us through the week,” Adam Manoucheri said. “We sold out within six hours.”
The idea for the new store came completely by accident.
Adam Manoucheri is an O’Neill-based pharmacist and musician in a classic rock band. He and his wife, who works for the Wayne and Wakefield Farm Bureau offices when she’s not shooting family and wedding photos for her photography studio, had bought the building on the corner of Second and Main with the idea of turning it into studio space to help them fulfill their respective musical and photography passions.
Amy had bought a little popcorn machine to serve as a diversion for kids who came in for family photos. When her husband’s band, AquaDog, recorded an album, they included small bags of popcorn called “B’s Mix” – a combination of blue raspberry, caramel and butter popcorn – in their promotional packages with the album.
“When I was doing weddings, people would ask about the popcorn, and it got to the point where so many people were asking about it that we decided to try it out,” she said.
The B’s Mix popcorn was named after one of the family’s English bulldogs, Brubeck, who became the unofficial taste tester for the new recipes.
“Whenever we turned the popper on in the house, he’d run down the steps and sit there and wait,” Adam Manoucheri said. “If we were making plain popcorn, he’d just snub it and leave. But he loved the flavored popcorn.”
Once they decided to start the business in their new building, they got the proper food permits and went to work creating, popping and bagging all kinds of flavored popcorn. Amy Manoucheri said they usually have about 20 different flavors in the store and have more than 50 recipes to choose from that they rotate on a regular basis – everything from classic flavors like butter, caramel and cheddar to tasty flavors like sweet red hot cinnamon, dill pickle, cherry mash, black pepper with white cheddar and white cheddar ranch.
During their interview, countless bags of cheddar, white cheddar, caramel and other favorites flew off the shelves. They were bagging requested flavors that ran out on the shelves throughout the day to keep up with the customers that continued to come in.
“Jalapeno pepper has become big around here,” Adam Manoucheri said. “When we first tried it we thought it was pretty good, but then people started talking about it on Facebook and it just exploded. We didn’t expect that kind of response for it.”
Popcorn isn’t the only thing AquaPop offers that can satisfy a sweet tooth. They also have some classic candy offerings, from peppermint sticks (and other flavors like root beer, green apple and bubble gum) to candy cigarettes and bottled pop.
“We’re eventually going to get more of the nostalgic candy, but right now a lot of wholesalers won’t deliver because it’s too hot,” Amy Manoucheri said. “We’re looking for somebody who can deliver, but we’ll probably wait until fall.”
Because of their jobs outside of town, the Manoucheri family has AquaPop open for business on Wednesdays and Saturdays. As renovation of the front part of the building is completed, they’ll eventually move in more chairs – along with some old-school pinball machines – and have more consistent hours to be open.
“Considering how much response we’ve had here, it’s been great,” Adam Manoucheri said of the local response to Wayne’s new store. “We would have never have guessed that the response would have been this good. We’ve sold out just about every day that we’ve been open, so we’re very happy with the response.”