Christopher and Lisa Schlabaugh are giving the small business scene in Chandler more than a little pop.
Their Central Pop Popcorn store at 1929 E. Ray Road, is a one-stop-shop for over 55 flavors of popcorn.
Open since early October, the craft popcorn shop owners hope to kick that number up to 75 unique flavors, including cheddar pretzel ale and churro.
“We’re unique in the sense that we’re really the only ones doing the full-blown four, five or six dozen flavors,” said Christopher.
After moving to Chicago for three years, he was inspired by the popularity and variety of craft popcorn shops in the city, which he had never seen before.
After moving back to Arizona, the couple decided to open their shop and bring a different kind of taste of Chicago to Chandler.
With their minds set on starting their first business, the two opened their shop after about a year of planning.
Since then, Christopher said that business has been steady, allowing them to test different techniques and try out new recipes.
“I’ve been cooking for years, so for me, I like getting in the kitchen and trying new things,” he said.
Their inspiration usually comes from looking at a food or a treat, and thinking about how to replicate that flavor into popcorn. This is how they’ve created flavors like cherry blossom, Cincinnati chili and more.
Pop Central also offers flavored marshmallows and crispy rice treats which are made fresh in the shop.
Since opening, Schlabaugh said that the shop has been creating a social media presence and in the future, the couple plans on working with local businesses and communities to offer their product.
Judging by reviews on social media, their offerings are a big hit.
“My husband and I are addicted to the popcorn,” said Carie Kahn in a Google review. “The rice crispy treats are amazing and the marshmallows are so fresh and soft. Everyone needs to try this place. I love it. Plus, the owner is super nice and personable.”
Another reviewer said, “We tried the cheddar, churro, cheese pizza and Sriracha flavored popcorn and there was no room for disappointment. It’s hard to pick a favorite as all the offerings were good, and actually tasted as you’d want and expect. We were able to sample flavors.”
Due to the vast variety of different flavors Pop Central offers, customers can be overwhelmed when walking through the door, Christopher said, adding that he and his wife are more than happy to walk each customer through the different kinds of popcorn and offer free samples.
“We really wanted to focus on the customer experience,” he said. “When people come in, whether they’ve been here before or not, they can come in and we walk them through what we’re doing.”
As they continue to grow, they plan on putting together deals like a Saturday night movie popcorn special where customers can get a large bag of popcorn and a drink for a discounted price.
“We hope to be a successful local business,” Christopher said, adding he and Lisa want “to service local communities and use products that are high quality and have customers that are happy with what we are offering.”
In the future, they plan on opening up more locations across the Valley, as well as offer catering at corporate events.