Cleveland Company Keeps Business “Popping” in Pandemic

Desy Papper

CLEVELAND — It’s a snack-time staple for everything, from movie nights to sporting events, but with events like those on hold because of the pandemic, fewer people are passing the popcorn. That’s a big blow to a downtown Cleveland company centered around the treat. What You Need To Know As […]

CLEVELAND — It’s a snack-time staple for everything, from movie nights to sporting events, but with events like those on hold because of the pandemic, fewer people are passing the popcorn. That’s a big blow to a downtown Cleveland company centered around the treat.


What You Need To Know

  • As the pandemic continues to cancel events, Kernels by Chrissie is one of many businesses feeling the pressure
  • The family business is still filling pre-orders, but the owner said it’s possible they’ve lost 80% of their business since the pandemic started
  • “It’s by sticking together that we’re all able to rise above and get beyond this together”

Chrissie Fahey, the owner of Kernels by Chrissie, knows the strong smell of popcorn is typically tough to pass up. 

“So many times people will come in saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, I was just walking through the Arcade, and I could just smell all these delicious aromas,’” she said. 

Lately fewer people are getting a whiff of Fahey’s handmade creations.  

She’s been in the gourmet snack business for 10 years, and like many of us, wasn’t exactly prepared for the pandemic to pop up. 

“We were able to take our kettle to some events, but again, there just weren’t that many events out there,” she said. 

Between the loss of events and the decreased foot traffic downtown, Fahey estimates her business is down about 80%. 

However, personal events are still taking place. 

“My mom loves popcorn, and it’s her birthday next week,” said Ben Verdonik. He visited the shop to buy the perfect gift.  

The company is currently filling custom orders and also pre-packaging popcorn for purchase. They transitioned a majority of their business model to online orders and deliveries during the pandemic. 

“I hope she like cries out of happiness or something crazy like that,” he said. “But, I think she’ll really love it.”

And that’s really the core of the business. 

“Popcorn is just one of those fun, happy foods,” said Fahey. “It has a very strong emotional, oftentimes nostalgic, component for a lot of people.”

These days the shop pops about 40-50 gallons of corn on a typical day. Fahey’s son Nate sifted a batch of freshly popped kernels to prepare it for coating in one of more than two dozen flavors. 

“You get tired of one flavor, you just kind of move on to the next one,” he said. 

Working for his mom isn’t without its challenges. 

“There are definitely days when it drives you a little crazy, but it’s a family business, so that’s expected,” he said. After a glance at his mom, he quickly added, “It’s pretty fun all the time, I’d say.”

“My dad always used to say sometimes when you’re working with family, you’re compatible with a P and other times you’re combat-able with a B,” said Fahey. 

At the end of the day, the family working as a team to fill both popcorn tins and a need within the community. 

“It’s by sticking together that we’re all able to rise above and get beyond this together,” said Fahey. “And have Cleveland be all the stronger for having gone through it.”

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