The tantalizing smell of popcorn wafts through the lower level of South County Center (Lindbergh Boulevard and Lemay Ferry Road). It's coming from a kiosk run by Randy Jung and his family: the St. Louis area's first location of the Boulder, Colorado-based Doc Popcorn franchise.
Jung, his wife Colleen and their children Paige, Brandy, Dawn and Nick, sell all-natural sodas and Gold Medal popcorn they pop fresh every morning. The popcorn is flavored naturally, in varieties that include "Better Butter," "Cheesy Cheddar," "Sinfully Cinnamon" and "Salt-N-Pepper." And each batch of popcorn popped -- about ten bags -- requires only an ounce of butter and a tablespoon and a half of salt.
"That was something in the concept that I really gravitated to: bringing a healthier food option to these high-traffic venues," Randy Jung says. "The thing that I believe in wholeheartedly is the all-natural nature of what we produce. None of this product has any artificial flavoring, colors or preservatives in it at all. Everything we do is to reduce the butters, the salts, and the trans fats and cholesterols in the snack food."
Doc Popcorn opened on September 23 after Jung researched the demographics of different malls across St. Louis. The Jungs settled on South County Center because of its family environment, which is a good match for their stock-in-trade.
"It really is a great community," Jung says. "That's really what we're about: We're a family business, and we're tending to families. We really like that."
The Jungs plan to open more Doc Popcorn kiosks, including one in St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights, Illinois, in March 2012, and another at Mid Rivers Mall in St. Peters sometime after that. Jung hopes to expand to conference centers and sports venues eventually.
"My long-term goal is that this will become a second- and third-generation business," he says. "One day I hope to have my grandkids in the business. I think that to support that size of a family, you need multiple locations."
Jung, who worked in a corporate family business before embarking on Doc Popcorn, says he knew it would require a lot of work to establish a new business from scratch, but he thinks the benefit of being able to work with his family every day was worth it. It hasn't hurt that so far the business has outperformed his expectations.
"It's a lot of work, but it's very rewarding work," he says.
The Jungs give out free samples of popcorn all day to passersby in the South County Center. If you like it enough, you can pick up a small bag for $3.50 or a large bag for $4. Family and party-sizes are also available for a little more.