Just poppin' in for a bit: Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn finds temporary home at Centre of Elgin

  • The Elgin City Council approved a temporary lease at the Centre of Elgin for Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn, a popular downtown business that's relocating while its space inside the 40 DuPage Court building undergoes redevelopment.

      The Elgin City Council approved a temporary lease at the Centre of Elgin for Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn, a popular downtown business that's relocating while its space inside the 40 DuPage Court building undergoes redevelopment. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/27/2022 4:39 PM

The owner of Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn said he's looking forward to giving visitors to the Edward Schock Centre of Elgin a "poptastic" experience after receiving approval from the city council Wednesday to move there on a temporary basis.

Chris Sumner will move his popcorn retail store from 20 South Spring St. to the vacant cafe space at the Centre while the building his shop occupies is under construction. 40 DuPage Court is being redeveloped as The Courtyard at 40, a more than $11 million project that will feature about 4,500 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, some of which will be occupied by Mama Lee's.

 

The four upper floors will be made up of a mix of 40 studio, one- and two-bedroom market-rate apartments.

Sumner, who plans to be open in the Centre by Valentine's Day, said he was having trouble finding a temporary spot downtown until he saw the space at the Centre.

"I was like, man, this is it, this is home," Sumner said. "This is poptastic."

The month-to-month lease comes with a $400 monthly rent and can be terminated by the city or Mama Lee's with 30-day notice.

Sumner said he plans to expand his offerings beyond popcorn at the Centre to be more of a concession stand, while still giving people what he calls the "Mama Lee's experience." The popcorn will be cooked off-site.

Mama Lee's has been in business since 2015 and also operates a location in Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee.

Sumner is active in the Elgin community, visiting over 35 elementary schools in School Districts U-46 and 300 to read with children before the pandemic. Mama Lee's was honored in 2019 by the city during Black History Month as one of Elgin's most successful black-owned businesses.

Sumner said he might also like to keep a presence at the Centre after he's able to reopen his original location if the city is interested.

"Ultimately, Mama Lee's is family oriented and heavily involved in the community," he said. "So the Centre is a cool place for us to be."

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