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Little things poppin’: Longtime popcorn entrepreneur brings gourmet business to downtown Durango

Nick Edelen, owner of Durango Gourmet Popcorn, stands inside his new store at 600 Main Ave., Ste. 110, on the northeast corner of College Drive and Main Avenue, on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. Shelves in the store are also filled with pickles, pasta sauces, olives, queso and many more types of gourmet canned goods. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
Durango Gourmet Popcorn intends to enter Durango retail and wholesale market

To some, Durango Gourmet Popcorn may be just another shop along Main Avenue, but for owner, Nick Edelen, the popcorn business was actually a teaching moment for his children.

Edelen entered that line of work before opening his Durango location at 600 Main Ave., Ste. 110, in September.

In 2003, he opened a kettle corn business in Texas because his son wanted to start saving money for various things like a car or college.

“One day he said, ‘Hey, Dad, how can I start our money? I’m 13,’ ” Edelen said.

Thinking he could use part-time income, Edelen thought, “Why not start a family business?”

Popcorn wasn’t the first choice for the longtime entrepreneur. In fact, he started a dog poop pickup business with his son. This did not inspire much interest from his son and finally, the two decided on popcorn.

Lilyanna Griego with Durango Gourmet Popcorn makes fresh caramel corn at the new store on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. The caramel corn popcorn is made with caramel the business makes itself. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

This is when he found a kettle corn business setup that two schoolteachers in South Carolina were selling. Edelen paid the teachers $300 per month to pay off the equipment and started Hill Country Kettle Corn in Georgetown, Texas.

His sons worked for the business all the way through high school and college. Edelen wanted to sell them the business once they graduated, but they wanted to pursue their own path. This prompted Edelen to sell the business in 2021.

Durango Gourmet Popcorn’s store shelves are also filled with pickles, pasta sauces, olives, queso and many more types of gourmet canned goods. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Before popcorn, Edelen had been involved in home improvement companies and concessions.

“I’ve always liked popcorn, and I’ll probably do one or two more businesses before I retire,” he said about his current position with Durango Gourmet Popcorn.

The business offers about 30 different variations of popcorn, from sweet to zesty. Edelen emphasizes the use of 2-gallon buckets rather than tins.

Nick Edelen, owner of Durango Gourmet Popcorn, offers samples of popcorn at his new store on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“Tins are very, very, very expensive to begin with,” he said. “Shipping now with UPS costing what it is and everything else. Tins have to be shipped in their size package, so we’re moving to recyclable buckets and containers that can be printed on.”

Edelen highlights the recycling aspect of the buckets. If customers bring them back, Durango Gourmet Popcorn will refill them for a dollar off the original price. Prices will vary based on the type of popcorn.

Edelen said buttered popcorn is the cheapest, followed by cheese popcorn. However, chocolate popcorn is the most expensive. They are coated with Ghirardelli chocolate and Durango Gourmet only offers 32-ounce cups.

Durango Gourmet prides itself on making its caramel corn from scratch.

“A lot of popcorn companies use mixes to make their popcorn,” Edelen said. “They buy these big boxes of mix, and they put it into their caramelizers and they mix it up with water and a few other things, right? We start from scratch.”

Freshness is key for Edelen. This is why he doesn’t sell anything past after it’s been sitting for three to five days. Instead, he bags it and gives it away free with other purchases.

Durango Gourmet Popcorn is located at 600 Main Ave., Ste. 110, on the northeast corner of College Drive and Main Avenue. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“It’s not going to go bad in Colorado. We’re really lucky,” he said. “I could actually keep this stuff in here for two weeks and you wouldn’t know the difference, but we don’t.”

He said he’s trying to enter the wholesale and gift market as well. Durango Gourmet sells gift packages like the Bloody Mary package, which features a bag of the business’ signature popcorn, a jar of Bloody Mary mix and garnishes.

“We’ve already got some local companies that are hiring us to do their company gifts, for their contractors or their employees,” Edelen said.

Durango Gourmet Popcorn, located at 600 Main Ave., Ste. 110, on the northeast corner of College Drive and Main Avenue, also offers Christmas gift bags. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Business hasn’t always been smooth sailing, though. Durango Gourmet recently had its Facebook page hacked, which Edelen said hurt sales. He also said that he’s had to get creative with how he markets to people because of his location.

With the shopped tucked away in the corner below The Balcony Bar & Grill, he tries to attract foot traffic by using signs, as well as boosting social media posts.

While the process of making popcorn is cheap, the cost leasing property in downtown Durango is not. Edelen also had to renovate the building’s interior when taking over.

“We ended up having to redo all the electrical, all the plumbing, redo the floors, obviously we updated the entire interior,” he said.

However, his location is beneficial because it is near the train tracks.

Edelen said he’s not concerned about obtaining tourist traffic, but really wants to build a relationship with residents in Southwest Colorado and Farmington.

tbrown@durangoherald.com

Durango Gourmet Popcorn is located at 600 Main Ave., Ste. 110, on the northeast corner of College Drive and Main Avenue. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
Birthday cake popcorn is one of the unique flavors offered by Durango Gourmet Popcorn, located at 600 Main Ave., Ste. 110, on the northeast corner of College Drive and Main Avenue. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)


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