Some of the most unique small businesses in the region originated in the most interesting ways. One of those is Hopper’s Poppers. Located in both Roxboro, NC and in Danville, Va., this unique operation is a must visit the next time you are in either town.
Readers may recall a story about the store in Hyco Lake Magazine when the Hopper family first came to North Carolina and opened the shop back in 2019. That story focused on the Roxboro location, where the community was introduced to the shop full of sweet treats like ice cream, homemade candies, coffee, and various flavored popcorn treats.
It all began way back when Ryan Hopper’s parents, Kenley and Daryl Hopper, owned a movie theater in Oregon, Ill. where Ryan and the couple’s other two children were involved in the family business. Ryan developed an interest in the concessions and especially popcorn sales. He began to research flavors, experimented with various recipes, and participated in festivals and farmers’ markets until he eventually began his own popcorn shop. In Oregon, Ryan – a businessman at heart – was interested in the small business community and was involved in local economic development. He continued to nurture that love of the small business community and brought that with him when he and his family moved to North Carolina.
The shop in Roxboro is a tribute to the community in several ways. First, the community partnership is key in this small business’s success. A decision to patronize a locally-owned establishment versus a national chain contributes to the local community in a deeper way. The owners contribute to the local economy and community by putting in the long hours required to operate a small business. Taking the risk of investing in the endeavor to include hiring employees, securing a location for the business, and investing in the supplies/products are all part of growing a local economy. Of course, the products offered themselves play a vital role in the success. Providing a unique product that is in demand is a sure way to build a thriving business.
From available research, it appears that the popcorn side of the business is situated nicely for the future. According to the food industry’s “ready to eat” data, popcorn snacks offer a healthier snack alternative. The demand for healthier, convenient, and sustainably-produced foods is growing, according to Grand View Research. Popcorn with gourmet flavors is a primary driving factor in that market. According to the Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery industry, the growth of flavored popcorn continues to grow over 12 percent per year and is an over $1.8 billion industry.
A conversation with Ryan revealed not only a dedicated father to his growing family but also a commitment to his parents. You may remember that they all relocated to the Roxboro area from Illinois back in 2018, which in itself is a huge undertaking. With an uncle already living in the area, the family has increased their impact on the community by providing fundraising opportunities for the school community with candy and popcorn sales.
Ryan speaks fondly of how children’s eyes light up when they have seen the products and realize that Ryan is actually making the goodies right there in the store. He shared how empowering it is and said it’s a great lesson for the kids to be a part of the impact of a local small business. Compare that to something purchased at a big box store where one really never knows who made the items and how it actually made it onto the shelf. Becoming a truly integral part of the community can be attributed to the fundraising arm of Hopper’s Poppers, said Ryan.
It is a pleasure to do a follow-up story on this small business that is now five years old and has successfully branched out to sell items online. The 2019 article mentioned that Ryan was hopeful to open an additional shop in the future, and in 2021, he fulfilled that goal: in Danville, Hopper’s Poppers is located at 468 Trade Street. This location provides a larger space to gather, and when you walk in the door the same amazing aroma of chocolates, popcorn, and other delightful treats beckon you to come in and stay a while.
468 Trade Street, Danville, Va. 24541
234 Madison Boulevard, Roxboro, NC 27573