Pearl City Popcorn owner looks back on her first two years of business
MUSCATINE — Halloween and Christmas can be a great time to stock up on treats, whether it’s a popcorn ball to give out during trick-or-treating or a tin of flavored popcorn as a holiday gift. For one local business, however, popcorn is the perfect treat year round.
Pearl City Popcorn, located on 119 Chestnut St. in Muscatine, has been selling gourmet popcorn and ice cream since June 2019, although owner Shiloe Hillman and her family have been selling popcorn for much longer than that. Her parents started a kettle corn stand years ago, and once they retired, she and her husband jumped at the opportunity to continue the tradition.
“Before we opened the store, we sold popcorn at farmer’s markets and things like that, so we’d travel around and go different places,” Hillman said, “After a while, we didn’t want to work out in the weather anymore, and we wanted our business to be more consistent throughout the year instead of just in the summer.”
Hoping to expand the business, Hillman and her family opened Pearl City Popcorn with around five different popcorn flavors alongside a small selection of ice cream.
“We wanted to sell something that would complement the popcorn, and I feel like they just work perfectly together,” Hillman said in reference to the ice cream.
Two years later, the store now sells 19 gourmet popcorn and several ice cream flavors. They now create custom popcorn orders for special events. Looking back on this time, Hillman said that it’s been “interesting”.
“I’ve learn a lot, but it’s given me a lot more flexibility with my family and things like that,” she said, “It’s been a lot of work too, I call (the store) my third kid. Still, I’m a talker so I definitely love interacting with the community and the regulars. All of the downtown businesses are like our own little community, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of those people and become friendly with them.”
Hillman said she would have to go with Jalapeño Cheddar as her favorite flavor, although the classic kettle corn was a close second. As she says, you can never go wrong with kettle. But even with all the flavors offered, she says that she and her husband still take the time to think of new flavors or consider requests from customers.
“We’ll just kind of go out and drive around at night, and we’ll kind of just ponder food and flavors we like and how we can incorporate them into popcorn,” she said.
Though her store opened just about half a year before the start of the pandemic, Hillman said other than closing for a couple months, her business wasn’t too negatively affected by it. In addition, while the holidays are the busiest time for her store, she said Pearl City Popcorn sees a steady flow of customers through the year.
“I’m very pleased with how much the community has come out to support and take care of their small businesses,” Hillman said, “I’m so thankful for my customers, and I appreciate them so much. Without them, we wouldn’t be here, so their continued support is comforting to me.”
With how fast her business and product lines have grown in such a short time, Hillman said she and her family were considering opening a second location, but they haven’t yet decided where.
“We’re always looking for ways to grow,” she said.
For now, Muscatine remains the only place to get a sweet, salty or spicy gourmet popcorn treat.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!