Headlines of businesses forced to close their doors due to COVID-19 have become a regular occurrence, but the pandemic prompted one man to open, rather than close, a store.
Dean’s Gourmet Kettle Corn opened for business at 811 E. Court St. in Beatrice late last month.
Owner Dean Lottman has been selling kettle corn for around four years after he retired from Nebraska Public Power District and was looking for an enjoyable way to make money.
He’s sold kettle corn at the Gage County Fair, Czech Days and a variety of events reaching as far west as Holdrege.
Business at shows and events was good, until around March.
“I had one event, a craft show at Indian Creek Mall in March, and then they all started dropping like flies with the virus because people couldn’t go out,” Lottman said. “Everything’s been canceled through August. I was losing money not having any events to go to.”
Having a physical location has helped recover the business, which also includes selling pork rinds.
“You’ve got your basic kettle corn, which is just popcorn covered in sugar, kind of what you get at the county fair,” he said. “Why do people have to wait a whole year to get kettle corn? It’s a nice treat and something I can offer during the year.”
Lottman sells around 30 varieties of kettle corn, from traditional flavors to more unusual offerings, like banana bread, blueberry cheesecake and dill pickle.
“We do a lot of experimenting with different flavors,” he said. “We have one called island chocolate and it tastes like a Mounds candy bar. That’s just a mixture of chocolate and a Pina Colada flavoring. Mix them together and it gives a chocolate, coconut taste. I’ve had a lot of compliments from customers saying Beatrice really needed a store like this because there isn’t one. They’re thankful for all the different flavors.”
Samples of the flavors are available at the counter.
One flavor listed on the white board is marked with red stars. It’s the extreme heat flavor of pork rinds. It’s mixed with seasoning from the Carolina reaper, often regarded as the hottest pepper in the world.
“It will take your breath away, but a lot of people like them,” Lottman said. “It’s been a fun one.”
Due to how hot the flavor is, Lottman added he won’t sell the variety of pork rinds to minors.
Walk-in sales have been strong so far, but another big aspect of the business has been catering.
Lottman has provided popcorn for employee recognition events, retirements, graduations, showers, and even popcorn bars at wedding receptions.