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updated: 11/11/2011 7:42 PM

Pop into Gourmet Kernel in Algonquin Commons

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  • Judy Reyes recently opened Gourmet Kernel, a popcorn shop selling a variety of flavors, in Algonquin Commons.

      Judy Reyes recently opened Gourmet Kernel, a popcorn shop selling a variety of flavors, in Algonquin Commons.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer


If you're looking for the great taste of gourmet popcorn, you can probably save yourself a trip to the city.

A new gourmet popcorn store opened along the Randall Road corridor in late September, and already customers are comparing the caramely and cheesy taste of the popcorn to some better-known spots in Chicago.

After more than 30 years in the technology and computer field, owner Judy Reyes opened the Gourmet Kernel this fall at 1724 S. Randall Road in the Algonquin Commons shopping center.

Reyes said she's always loved gourmet popcorn stores and was sad when they started to leave the local malls. She found a spot she loved in downtown Geneva where she could get that great taste, but felt there needed to be more places to get gourmet popcorn.

So, she decided that some day, when her kids were out of the house, she would open her own store and bring back that delicious flavor to the area.

While she was still working, she began researching everything there was to know about gourmet popcorn stores.

She even went to Texas in 2009 to shadow the owner of a gourmet popcorn store for a week, learning everything about the business, including recipes, equipment and what it takes to run such a business on a daily basis.

"I came back thinking, 'I could make this work,'" she said.

Reyes decided she wouldn't wait on her dream any longer.

After interviewing suppliers, getting everything lined up and finally deciding on the location along Randall, she opened the business.

Now her "pop-is-tas," as she calls her popcorn servers -- similar to baristas you'd find at Starbucks, serve up gourmet flavors of cheese, caramel and butter each day.

While Reyes has the typical popcorn flavors, she says her recipes are irresistible, and she's got her own take on the names.

For example, she has O' Sweet Cheezus, which is a mix of caramel and cheddar popcorns. She also calls her caramel, Caramelt, because of its buttery, melt-in-your mouth flavor.

In addition to the usuals, she also has a Popfetti, which is a mix of fruit flavors that is always changing.

And each month, she has a special flavor. For November, it's pumpkin pie.

Many stores, she added, pre-mix their caramel flavoring to make it easier to produce and to keep it consistent. But each day, she said, she adds the fresh ingredients of brown sugar, real butter and pure vanilla extract to bring out the gourmet caramel flavor that her customers love.

And, she added, it's all made on state-of-the art equipment that she researched before opening the store.

"It's high quality and top of the line," she said.

Reyes invites you to stop into her store and sample her flavors.

For information, call (847) 458-0357.

Holiday open house: Gibby's Wine Den in Geneva is hosting an Unwrap the Holidays event from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20.

You can check out the holiday gifts and shop for those on your list, while also sampling some wines and gourmet food at the event.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, they'll pair some wines with an actually Thanksgiving feast.

There also will be a fashion show, and holiday hair and makeup tips you can use at upcoming holiday parties.

Gibby's is at 1772 S. Randall. For information, call (630) 208-6424.

Amy Williams' column covers all the news of business along the Randall Road corridor from South Elgin to Batavia. Contact her at or at (847) 894-5036.

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