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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Island Popper

Restaurant Insider

November 28, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

ANNE LEE speaks with Island Popper owner ANDREA TOURNIS-VAGENAS
(pictured with pup Deuce)

The secret to Hawaii’s most addicting popcorn is the homemade flavors curated by Island Popper owner Andrea Tournis-Vagenas and her team. Every batch is handcrafted and made to order with non-GMO corn kernels in 100% coconut oil, which makes this popcorn worth waiting for.

Her husband’s job brought them to Hawaii from Chicago, home of the famous Garrett Popcorn Shops.

Find everything — and a variety of flavors — from single cups to bags of all sizes at Island Popper.

Missing this gourmet treat, Tournis-Vagenas wanted to re-create something similar and tested recipes in her kitchen. She bought her truck “Poppy” on Craigslist, and in 2012, Island Popper was born, making its way to farmers markets and events. In 2019, the first retail store opened in July, and it’s been popping away ever since.

With Christmas fast approaching, I was able to sample some of the favorite flavors and the new holiday flavor, Gingerbread Hazelnut Cocoa, available for the entire month of December.

Gingerbread Hazelnut Cocoa is the December flavor of the month.

AL: What type of feedback are you hearing from your customers?

ATV: Many people comment on how fresh and flavorful the popcorn is. We make each batch to order. It’s superior quality products — we bag it here while you wait. That is something that they are not used to. New customers, especially, expect to grab something and go, and on a busy day, there can be a 10- to 15-minute wait. An alternative that we do offer and encourage is to order ahead by phone 808-888-0101 or online at islandpopper.net, and we can bring it out to you curbside. If you know that you need it on a certain day, I highly encourage you to order well in advance, especially for the holidays.

AL: There are two websites for Island Popper. Can you tell me the difference?

ATV: The website to use is islandpopper. com when placing an order to be shipped, and shipping is included in the price that you see.We take care of everything, and you can even add a personalized message. We even get a lot of local orders that want it shipped within Oahu.

Holiday cups in assorted flavors ($2.50 each, add 25 cents for kakimochi)

To ensure that your order gets to the mainland in time for Christmas, we encourage that you place your order by Dec. 10 to be safe. We will have an influx of orders and want to make sure your gift arrives in time.

The online version of our store is at islandpopper.net. This is the site to order and pick up curbside, or order in advance to pick up at the store.

AL: The holiday cups are here. What are they and how do we order these?

ATV: The holiday cups are $2.50 each — the only additional charge would be adding kakimochi for an additional 25 cents. These are two-and-a-half cups of popcorn (sealed and not an open container).You can do whatever mix or flavor you want. You can preorder the Gingerbread Hazelnut Cocoa holiday cups and have them ready to go for a party or even for your child’s classroom gifts. We also have these available for fundraising, excluding November and December. Many schools use us for fundraising efforts, and you can always call us and we can talk about the options.

AL: Can you tell me more about the new holiday flavor?

ATV: On Nov. 30, we will have our new holiday flavor, Gingerbread Hazelnut Cocoa, for the entire month of December. Usually, we have a new flavor every week, but wanted to make sure we have this for the entire month. Every Christmas we try to switch it up.

AL: What are the different sizes and flavors of popcorn?

ATV: First, you choose your size bag ($5 small; $7 medium; $9 large; 50 cents more for mixes; $1 more for kakimochi). There are also extra-large bags ($18; $1 more for mixes; $2 more for kakimochi); small favor bags ($2; 25 cents more for mixes or kakimochi); and paper cones ($2; $2.50 for mixes; $1 more for kakimochi per cone).

For our cups (non-holiday), a single flavor is $3 and mixes are $3.50, with an additional 25 cents for kakimochi. Our holiday cups are a deal at $2.50, with adding kakimochi for 25 cents.

Our single flavors are: caramel, original furikake, real cheddar cheese, organic butter and our featured flavor of the week. Our mixes are: Oahu Mix, Maui Mix, Tsunami Mix, Big Island Mix or Kauai Mix.

Our most popular specials are three large bags for $23, and you can mix and match flavors, with an additional $1 for kakimochi per bag. Or, we have three extra-large bags for $46, and you can mix and match flavors, with an additional $2 for kakimochi per bag.

AL: What are the future plans for Island Popper?

ATV:We want to try some plant-based vegan options for our popcorn. Right now, our only vegan option is plain popped corn with salt, which is still delicious, but we want to add something new and fun, and offer more than just one option.

We might kick off the New Year with something spicy, since we are doing sweet for December. We try to source local products and local vendors as much as we can, and fortunately we are able to get most of everything we need here on Oahu.

Maybe we might consider doing a contest in the future!

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