What’s new in food: Poppy Handmade Popcorn plans expansion

A POPPING BUSINESS: Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn's founder and CEO Ginger Frank is preparing her company for a large expansion. Photo courtesy of Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn

Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn founder and CEO Ginger Frank says she started her business in 2014 for two reasons: flexible hours more conducive to parenting and better pay.

“In hindsight, it’s a little naive to think you’ll have more money and more time if you start your own business because, in fact, it’s the opposite,” she says. “But fortunately, I didn’t know that at the time. Otherwise, Poppy might not exist.”

Today, the company not only exists but continues to grow. Last month, plans were announced to invest $4.3 million in new operations, in conjunction with the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County. Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, which offers over 30 flavors using all-natural ingredients, is a product of the EDC’s entrepreneurship initiative, the Venture Asheville Elevate Program. Its expansion plans will increase production capacity sixfold, add 45,000 square feet to more than double the existing manufacturing space, and open a new headquarters office and a flagship retail store on the South Slope.

“When I opened Poppy, my plans were to have a small popcorn shop where people could come in and buy better-for-you, delicious popcorn,” says Frank. “I’d make the popcorn and sell the popcorn and then close up at the end of the day and go home.”

The business evolved naturally out of increasing demand and really took off in 2016, when she started selling wholesale to other retailers. “I had no idea what I was doing. But since so many people were falling in love with Poppy, I thought I’d better figure it out.”

The expansion will also allow for the creation of 66 new jobs in the next five years with an average wage of $26.40 per hour.  They’ll include positions in professional management, sales and distribution, food science and production.

Creating jobs that pay well and offer flexibility is always a priority for Frank. “I know what it’s like to work hard, work long hours, always come up short when paying your bills in a town that’s very expensive to live in, never have anything extra for fun or security, and have few growth opportunities. It’s difficult balancing paying people well and having the resources to grow a business, but it’s … in the forefront of my mind when making business decisions.”

Poppy is known for its collaborations with local partners such as French Broad Chocolate, Spicewalla and the Biltmore Co. Frank says she hopes the expansion will encourage new community partnerships.

“We have a 10-year anniversary coming up next year, and I have some really fun collaborations in mind as a way to celebrate our growth — and just the wonderful collaborative community in Asheville,” she says. “We’re so excited to share this growth with our hometown. … It feels like this is ‘our’ success as Ashevilleans’ — we’ve been in this together, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the support our community has given us.”

For more information, visit avl.mx/ch3.

AMB opens in Mills River

Boone-based Appalachian Mountain Brewery opened a new taproom in Mills River last month.

The opening of the first location outside Boone follows the recent buyback from Anheuser-Busch by original founders and Asheville natives Nathan Kelischek and Chris Zieber.

The new taproom will feature a 3,000-square-foot taproom with 32 taps as well as a full bar, a 4,000-square-foot beer garden, over 100 parking spaces and a menu of “elevated” Southern pub fare. The family- and dog-friendly space is also near outdoor activities in Pisgah National Forest.

“Our Boone taproom is known for its casual, welcoming atmosphere, and we are excited to bring that to Mills River,” says Jared Edwards, AMB director of pubs, in a press release.

“This new spot is so close to Pisgah National Forest and really lends itself to building community around outdoor recreation and conservation. In Boone, we host a weekly bike meetup, and we’re planning to do something similar here,” says Zieber in the same press release. “Beyond that, we’re committed to supporting local nonprofits like MountainTrue and the Longleaf Alliance. It’s a tangible way for us to care for the outdoors.”

“We are stoked to bring AMB to Mills River,” says Kelischek. “I was born and raised in Asheville, and this feels like bringing AMB home. You can see the love for North Carolina and the outdoors in the taproom’s design elements.”

Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s Mills River Taproom is at 46 N. Mills River Road, Mills River. For more information, visit avl.mx/csr.

A-B Tech and Givens Estates partnership

Caitlyn Wright, an Asheville native, has been recognized as the first person to complete a culinary apprenticeship offered by A-B Tech and Givens Estates, the first of its kind in the region.

The apprenticeship, launched in 2021 to help regional employers build a skilled workforce through on-the-job learning and related classroom instruction, coincided with the senior living community’s $8 million investment in dining and culinary services. The community has three restaurants for its residents and guests on its campus in South Asheville.

“Successful registered apprenticeship programs rely on partnerships. A-B Tech is proud to have partnered with Givens by providing the required job-related education and instruction for this ‘first in the region’ culinary apprenticeship. We look forward to many more success stories,” says Debbie L. Cromwell, director of work-based learning and apprenticeships at A-B Tech, in a press release.

For more information on A-B Tech’s culinary program, visit avl.mx/cjof.

U-pick season opens

Jeter Mountain Farm, a 400-acre, family-owned and operated orchard, announced that its u-pick season opens Saturday, July 15. Crops grown on the farm include peaches, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, flowers and over 20 varieties of apples.

The farm also includes a cidery offering six hard ciders, a bakery, a market and a 6,000-square-foot covered children’s play area. The farm’s 1813 Smokehouse features barbecue with sauces made from a family recipe using cider and honey. Live bluegrass plays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Jeter Mountain Farm is at 1126 Jeter Mountain Road, Hendersonville. For more information, visit avl.mx/csu.

Guest chef

On June 23, Meherwan Irani, executive chef and founder of Chai Pani Restaurant Group, served as the guest chef for the Department of State’s official luncheon for the Indian delegation in Washington, D.C.

The event, which was the department’s first fully vegetarian luncheon, is part of an initiative launched in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation. The program, named the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, works with a curated group of over 80 chefs and culinary professionals throughout the United States.

During his remarks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “You should know that Meherwan credits his mother as his earliest culinary inspiration, and I think we’re all about to be very inspired by what she gave to him and he’s now about to give to us.”

Irani, who was personally selected by Vice President Kamala Harris, created a menu that included pani puri, spinach samosas, millet-lentil khichadi and mango halva with masala chai.

For more information on Chai Pani Restaurant Group, visit avl.mx/ch4.


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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