Kernels of creativity: Poptique is cooking up more than 20 flavors of gourmet popcorn

You can hear the smile in Gary Hively’s voice when he talks about the time his daughter, Lindsey, was trying to make a specific flavor of popcorn.

“She had cans of pumpkin pie filling…,” he recalls. “(And she was) playing with different flavors.”

Although it took a while, Lindsey finally hit on the right combination. Now, Pumpkin Spice popcorn is the most popular seasonal treat sold at Poptique Gourmet Popcorn.

Pumpkin Spice is the most popular fall flavor at Poptique.

As the name might suggest, Poptique is more than your average plain popcorn shop. Today, it sells about 20-24 flavors of popcorn that Lindsey, her family, and her employees have cooked up (although the actual list of flavors they make is closer to 40).

Popcorn flavors like Orange and Black Cherry, Green Apple, and the aforementioned Pumpkin Spice are just a sampling of their offerings.

“I remember (Lindsey) putting Tabasco hot sauce on popcorn!” Gary exclaims. She was perfecting the flavor of the shop’s popular Buffalo Hot Wings popcorn at the time.

Lindsey Hively was Poptique's visionary leader.

Poptique started as a dream for Lindsey, the late, 27-year-old entrepreneur who lost her battle with abdominal cancer in 2015. But for those who knew and loved her, her ambitious, creative spirit lives on in her business, which now has two locations in Fort Wayne and one in her hometown Columbia City.

After her first year of college at Indiana University, Lindsey came back to Columbia City, where her dad was already a small business owner, cleaning carpets and selling high-end vacuum cleaners. 

Wanting to start her own business, she opened her first snack shop in one of Gary’s buildings. This store sold snacks like popcorn and ice cream. Eventually, Lindsey transferred schools to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), so she could keep running her business.

That’s when she trimmed down the menu and focused on selling popcorn exclusively.

“We actually started by doing the farmer’s markets (in Fort Wayne),” Gary says. “She just loved downtown Fort Wayne.”

Gary and Lindsey Hively outside their first snack shop in Columbia City.

From farmer’s markets, Lindsey initially expanded to pop-up shops during major holiday shopping events, like the Black Friday sales. From 2012 to 2014, Lindsey operated out of Columbia City, where her first shop was located and did occasional appearances in Fort Wayne.

Then management from Jefferson Pointe contacted her, asking if she would open a store in their mall. To this day, Gary describes it as a “scary” decision for Lindsay to make, but she took the chance and opened her second Poptique shop there in June of 2014. 

In September of that same year, Lindsey was diagnosed with cancer. She died in April of 2015, after a short, but valiant battle. Her dad recalls the last text message she sent him.

“I was walking to her hospital room,” he says. This text explained that there was going to be an open house in downtown Fort Wayne at The City Exchange Shoppes where she could open a third Poptique store. Was her dad willing to look into this?

“I said, ‘Sure, we can try to open a store there,’” Gary says.

When he arrived at the indoor shopping space in the heart of the city, he immediately knew it was a fit.

“Being down there, it kind of hit me," Gary says. "We need to be here."

Poptique makes popcorn for special events like weddings.

Over the years, downtown Fort Wayne has continued to grow, and Poptique is growing with it. Today, Gary says the biggest challenge he faces is communicating to customers that they sell more than plain popcorn. They have an ever-expanding list of flavors that are often inspired by customer input and the recommendations of the people who make the popcorn.

Since Poptique’s popcorn is made without extra preservatives, an added bonus is that it stays good for about a month after it is purchased, Gary says. But what makes Poptique’s products successful is simpler than that.

“Quality,” he explains. “(Our product) is produced here, bagged here.” The popcorn at Poptique is “more like the stuff you’d make at home.” Poptique offers a popcorn buffet for special events.

For comparison, he says many companies’ popcorn that comes in tins can be up to a year old before it reaches the consumer. In contrast, Poptique’s product is made the day before or the same day it is being shipped out.

Gary speaks of a recent purchase where a local customer wanted to have 60 gallons of popcorn delivered on a specific date. His crew popped it in the morning, loaded it, and delivered it later that same day.

He says another benefit of a boutique popcorn shop is personalization.

“Lindsey tried to really focus on weddings,” he says, noting that their 1-cup bags of popcorn make great party favors. “We can print anything on (the bag’s labels): a picture, a logo, phrases like, ‘He popped the question.’” 

They also have a “popcorn bar” available for customers to buy a variety of flavors of popcorn in bulk and put it out, buffet-style, for guests.

While Poptique is based in Columbia City and Fort Wayne, its customer base has expanded across the country. Gary says one of its customers is a Florida business that likes to send popcorn treats as thank-yous to its new customers. Poptique offers popcorn bags with custom messages.

“They just mail us the list (of customers), and we package it and send it out,” he says.

Other requests are more obscure, like a 4-gallon bag of popcorn he recently sent to California.

“I have no idea how they’ll use it,” Gary admits, chuckling.

Looking to the future, he plans to carry on Lindsey’s legacy at Poptique, and he says it all boils down to one thing.

“Trust,” he says. “(It’s your customers) being able to trust (that you’ll give them a good product).”

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