Everyone goes through life looking for that one thing that could make them happy, but few find it. Most go to work with the goal of making money and use that to facilitate passion, but never quite get that pop.
This is not the case for Theresa and Craig Johnson who in 1989 took over a business that has brought a good deal of flavor to their lives.
“When we first took over the store it was just a conventional popcorn shop that had flavors like caramel and white cheddar,” Theresa said.
Popcorn Papa became the staple of the Johnsons’ lives and they’ve grown it from one location with a few flavors to three stores with dozens of varieties ranging from the common to the incredibly original. Flavors such as dill pickle, strawberry and s’mores are readily available at every location. The Rockwall location sits one door down from Burger House, across the street from Buffalo Wild Wings.
Popcorn Papa’s origin was a bit dark, but the business recovered. It was started in 1982 by a couple that were murdered during a drug deal that went bad involving the couple’s son. An older couple picked up the business in probate, but the business was a bit too much for them according to Theresa.
“At the time Craig was in the business of buying and liquidating small businesses and he told the couple, who were working on a deal with a company to buy the shop, to contact him if the deal fell through,” Theresa said. “They called him within two days.”
The first store was located at Coit Road and Campbell Road, but it didn’t take long for the couple to sprinkle a few new ingredients into their business.
“There are about 36 locations nationwide who have consulted with us,” Theresa said.
Although their influence can be found all over the country, the Popcorn Papa name is local to DFW alone.
“If we allow them to use our name and you don’t have control over it, people can ruin your reputation,” Theresa said. “We encourage them to come up with their own names and put their own spin on it.”
It was not until this year that the couple brought the business to Rockwall despite being long-term residents.
“We have been here 15 years and we’ve seen the growth,” Theresa said. “The store at Firewheel mall had a lot of people coming from Rockwall and this is really my store. I begged and pleaded with Craig to open one out here and the people in Rockwall have been incredible.”
The Popcorn Papa name has done a lot to draw business to the Rockwall location according to Theresa.
“I had somebody come by and say ‘I happened to catch the pa in your sign and wondered if it was Popcorn Papa and I was so thrilled that it was,’” Theresa said.
The Johnsons’ life hasn’t been an easy ride though. Craig had a bout with cancer that had the couple thinking their treat may have been permanently burnt.
“He was diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancer,” Theresa said. “People don’t realize how hard it is. They think we just pop popcorn, but there is so much more to it especially given our consultant business.”
With ingredients weighing upwards of 50 pounds and Craig doing most of the lifting the situation almost became overwhelming, but Theresa said her employees managed to keep Popcorn Papa roasting kernels.
“We were only able to open a new store because of their help,” Theresa said.
Craig has been in remission for two years now and although they have no plans on opening another store Theresa said the possibility is always open.
“Never is not a final word. We could still decide to open another,” she said.
Regardless of whether the couple decides to open another location, Theresa said she would love to keep the business in the family for many years to come.
“My daughter’s fiancé grew up here and I’d love to see the two of them take it over,” she said. “People love going to smaller mom and pop stores no matter what the size of the city. The small family-run store works.”