Popcorn Company heats up Oakland

By Larissa Gula

Pittsburgh Popcorn Co.

3710 Fifth Ave

Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 11… Pittsburgh Popcorn Co.

3710 Fifth Ave

Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Students can grab something both sweet and salty now as they wander down Fifth Avenue between Atwood and Oakland avenues.

The new branch of the Pittsburgh Popcorn Co., the third in the local franchise, opened last week. The two other stores operate in the Strip District and Downtown, and each store caters to a different market, according to owner Rob Day.

“We saw a pretty good market in terms of college kids,” Day said about the Oakland store. “People need a snack. If you look around Oakland, there aren’t a ton of snacks. Rita’s is seasonal, but this you can get all year round.”

The Oakland store is small — there’s a counter, carnival-themed posters and decorations, a popcorn maker and bins of fresh and flavored popcorn. There’s no sitting room — people get their popcorn and go. There are free samples so people can taste and pick their favorite from nine or 10 gourmet popcorn flavors, which rotate and change by the week. Flavors include cheddar, chocolate, kettle, peanut butter and s’mores, as well as a Flavor of the Week.

“We strive for the best popcorn experience possible and buy fresh products, including all-natural fresh cheese and caramel,” Day said. “I hate using the term ‘gourmet’ since it’s overused, but it’s gourmet popcorn.”

Day and his wife began the Pittsburgh Popcorn Co. after meeting in a popcorn shop in New York City. Genalle Day, a Pittsburgh local, wanted to bring the same experience to her hometown. Rob Day happily agreed, and they soon opened their first store in the Strip District in 2008.

“We thought, Pittsburgh never had [a popcorn store,] so we thought it would be a good idea,” Rob Day said. “I was sick of my corporate job and we decided to do it. I mean, everybody loves popcorn.”

Jarad Bailey, the Oakland store manager, loves popcorn as much as the owners and happily sells the treats while offering free samples to passers-by and anyone who steps inside the store.

“Popcorn is a super fun product,” Bailey said. “The idea is to be nostalgic and offer a new spin on something people already love.”

The Pittsburgh Popcorn Co. has different themes and different Flavors of the Week in each store, but the experience is meant to be the same at each location.

“All of our popcorn is made fresh every day,” Bailey said. “If you go to another store, it isn’t as fresh. It doesn’t taste as good. We probably make the best popcorn on the east coast, period. And it’s cool because it’s a Pittsburgh thing and a Pittsburgh product.”

Anyone is welcome to sample any flavor in the store and not feel obligated to buy popcorn, but for those who give into the temptation, there are three different bag and tin sizes.

Rather than sell multiple items and have them suffer in quality, the business sells only popcorn so that its sole product can be at its best, according to Rob Day, who has designed and implemented most of the flavors.

“I wake up one morning and have it in my head that this will be a great taste,” he said about the flavors. “I just come up with it out of thin air.”

Store hours may change in the future as the popcorn company settles into the Oakland area. The store expects to accept Panther Funds within two weeks.