Elgin popcorn store expands into Spring Hill Mall
Customers of Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn in Elgin are used to hearing owner Chris Sumner enthusiastically telling them to have a "poptastic day." Shoppers at Spring Hill Mall will get a taste of his cheerful energy after his second store opens Saturday.
To mark the occasion, Sumner shot a music video in which he performs a song he wrote called -- what else? -- "Popcorn Song."
"I want to make 'poptastic' a culture," Sumner said. "I look at my business like a ministry, like a little lighthouse for people to come in and be happy, and feel the love. So I figured, why not spread the love?"
The West Dundee location, between Macy's and Sears, will feature Mama Lee's assortment of flavored popcorn made at the Elgin store. The most popular is the "Elgin Mix," combining white cheddar, garlic and caramel, followed by cheddar bacon and birthday cake, Sumner said.
"They are doing a lot of renovation at the mall and they are bringing a lot of stores back," said Sumner, who'll toggle between his two locations. "That will be a great fit for Mama Lee's."
The "Popcorn Song" video, shot by Sumner's cousin, features Sumner's 10-year-old daughter and cameos from people in the Elgin business community, including Krisilee Murphy of the Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"I think it's great to have a business in Elgin, and soon to be in West Dundee, that is so active on social media. That's something we need," Murphy said. "The video is going to create quite a buzz, and that's what he was going for."
Sumner opened the store at 20 S. Spring St. in Elgin in early July 2015 and quit his factory job three days later. The store, normally closed Sundays and Mondays, is also closed Tuesdays this month while he gets the Spring Hill Mall location off the ground.
And that's not all, Sumner says. He wants to open a store in St. Charles, possibly as early as next year.
The Elgin store has a loyal customer base even without steady foot traffic, Sumner said. It also caters popcorn for events like office parties.
"I really want to keep diving into communities and be community oriented. Once people tap in, they support that local business," he said. "I thank God every day for people who do that."
Among his regulars is Ed Shannon of Elgin, who visits Saturdays to buy a small bag of popcorn, usually caramel.
"I love popcorn, and Chris puts out a really good product. It is priced fairly and I want to see small businesses succeed in Elgin," Shannon said. "If I'm in town, I make it a point to go every Saturday."
The two have since become friends, Shannon said. "I'm old enough to be Chris' dad, and yes, we are now friends. I enjoy talking to Chris," he said. "I'm thrilled for him that he is opening his second store. I know he has the dream of expanding, and after only a short time in business to open a second store -- it's fantastic."