A lifelong love of popcorn fuels Pipoca Gourmet Popcorn, which offers more than 30 different flavors of the classic snack.
As soon as you step into the shop, you’re met with the scent of freshly popped kernels.
The heavenly aroma and sight of bags filled with multi-colored popcorn sitting on shelves is enough to make you feel as if you were at a fair.
Above the counter in the back, a television lists the 34 different sweet and savory flavors to choose from.
With flavors such as watermelon, cheddar and bacon, peanut butter, and dill pickle, any customer is bound to find whatever their sweet/savory tooth is hankering for at Pipoca Gourmet Popcorn.
The brand new specialty shop is the brainchild of couple Paulo Lyra and Priscela Lagreca, who were inspired to start up their new venture thanks to Lagreca’s passion for the treat.
“I love popcorn,” Lagreca says. “I use to eat popcorn every night — I could switch a meal for popcorn.”
Since Lagreca was a child growing up in Brazil, nothing seemed to match a bowl of delicious popcorn.
After the couple immigrated to the United States three years ago from Brazil, where they ran a few different restaurants, Lyra and Lagreca continued their food careers when they arrived in the U.S. by opening up a sushi place.
Although business was good, popcorn remained on Lagreca’s mind.
At home, she experimented with popcorn, drizzling different ingredients atop to see what kind of flavors she could get. Luckily, for Lagreca, her passion was about to be rewarded.
After selling their sushi place, the couple sat down and began planning for their next venture, and that’s where popcorn came into play.
“We were thinking (of) something new to open, then she came up with the idea to do popcorn,” Lyra says. “This lady, she is addicted to it — she eats popcorn every day.”
The choice also came down to understanding that a snack such as popcorn was something less foreign to the American public. Originally they had thought about doing coxinha, a popular food in Brazilian cuisine, but after some words of advice, decided against it.
“I said, ‘Why not popcorn?’ Everyone knows popcorn, but we can do different kinds of popcorn,” Lagreca said. “We’re not from here, so we had to do something that everyone knows.”
From that conversation, Pipoca — which is Portuguese for popcorn — was born.
To start with Lyra and Lagreca began searching for a place to set up shop in a warehouse — that way they could produce everything in one spot. During the process however, they decided that instead of a warehouse, they would find a place where they could both make and sell their popcorn. That’s when they discovered an ad for a space for lease in Baldwin Park.
“When we came here, we fell in love,” Lyra says. “There is life in Baldwin Park — it’s different than the other neighborhoods. The people are friendly.”
They signed the lease in less than a week, and before they knew it, were up and running in May.
In the front of the space is the storefront, where the different types of popcorn sit on display, while chairs are placed about so patrons can sit and snack after buying their treat.
The popcorn making magic itself happens just past the counter, in the back of the facility.
Not only are the kernels popped in-house using an air popper, but Lyra and Lagreca also use all-natural ingredients to give each batch its flavor. The process itself is different based on what the two are cooking, but the steps are similar.
“For example — with the savory — once we pop the kernel, we put in a mixture and start adding the flavors,” Lyra says. “We keep mixing for a little less than half an hour, and then after it’s done we bag it right away. We don’t want them to lose their crunchiness.”
Although the company is still in its infancy, the two hope that their focused attention to detail and desire to give customers the tastiest popcorn eventually will lead to breaking into taking their product to wholesale venues.
The plan is to get Pipoca into grocery stores and other markets in the next few months, Lyra says.
With the new business just getting going and big plans for the future, Lyra and Lagreca feel as though they’re stuck in fast forward — though they don’t seem to mind one bit.
“Everything is coming so fast,” Lyra says, laughing. “We’re really excited, and we like it.”