MINT HILL, NC – Mama K’s Kettle Corn is open in its new location next to Sammy’s Snowballs!
Owner Debbie Carver entered the Kettle Corn business two years ago when she was laid off from a corporate job. “My kids came to me and said, ‘Mom, let’s start a business,’” says Carver. “They didn’t want me to go back and start over at a corporate job, and they wanted me to stay active. My mother and my sister used to pop kettle corn, so we came up with this idea.”
Since June 1 of last year, Carver has been popping in a food truck stationed outside Sammy’s Snowballs. She sold her kettle corn from a roadside tent and rented a small space indoors that she used to store equipment and popcorn.
Carver maintains a regular schedule outside Sammy’s Snowballs, but another large part of her business is booking events. With large-scale gatherings on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19, Carver watched her bookings for the year dwindle as event after event was canceled. “When COVID happened, we had to start thinking of a different way,” she says. “We had to figure out a way to stay in business. When we looked at this space, we always thought we would love to turn it into a store, so we just decided to do it!”
And that’s exactly what Carver did. Together with her son, Carver transformed the small space she was previously used for storage into a retail store. Saturday, July 25, was her first day inside. In addition to classic kettle corn, Carver also sells several varieties of flavored popcorn, a relatively new but popular addition that has taken off over the summer. Carver also sells local honey, a small assortment of drinks (lemonade in the summer; cider, hot chocolate, and coffee in the fall) and the unpopped “magic mushroom” corn that creates the big, fat popcorn she uses.
Carver also hopes to use her brick and mortar store to assist other local retailers. “We’re trying to help some local people that are in business for themselves,” says Carver. “We’re going to try and let people showcase things; we’re starting with family and friends.” Opening weekend found Pampered Chef and Mary Kay products on display inside.
Carver plans to keep setting up the tent that people have come to associate with Mama K’s for a few weeks until her customers become more familiar with the store. Set up in the tent on opening weekend was Mayra Caraballo, who has teamed up with Carver to raise money for Servant’s Heart. With the help of Mama K’s, Mayra sells face masks and hair scrunchies. With the exception of any transaction fees, all money raised from Mayra’s homemade products goes straight to Servant’s Heart.
COVID-19 may have disrupted Carver’s plans, but the new store has her excited about what the future holds. “We’re a local family,” says Carver. “Being a local business is really wonderful for us because we’ve reconnected with so many people. We’re hoping that we can work with companies wanting to do gifts for employees, to do some things for schools, fundraising drives. We are going to do a blanket drive in November or December. I think there’s a lot we that we can do here.”
Mama K’s is currently open Friday through Sunday from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. You’ll find the new store on the left of Sammy’s Snowballs – just walk through the fence and look for the red door.