KuKuRuZa to offer 25 flavors of popcorn at Seattle store.
When the economy was strong, George Marema made enough money in the stock market that he was able to retire from an insurance-industry job at 35 and follow a dream he’d had for years of opening a gourmet popcorn shop.
Called KuKuRuZa after the Russian word for corn, the store in Tempe, Ariz., did well enough for five years that Marema could spend winters in the desert and summers in Seattle.
Now Marema and popcorn chef and co-owner Robert Hicks are leaving Tempe to open KuKuRuZa at 215 Pike Street, a couple blocks east of Pike Place Market.
“We waited for a visible spot,” said Marema, who is thrilled that it is in a building from the 1920s, which fits the KuKuRuZa’s look and feel, from swing and jazz music to martini glasses displaying popcorn.
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Beginning Nov. 7, KuKuRuZa will make popcorn all day, with about 25 flavors available at a time. Customers will pay $2.50 for a quart-sized bag of a classic flavor, such as caramel or Cheddar, and $13.69 for a gallon bag of “After Five” flavors, which include burgundy cheddar cheese and Irish cream coffee with white chocolate.
One wall will hold holiday and other tins that can be filled with four flavors of popcorn each.
KuKuRuZa’s most popular flavor is caramel corn, followed by a caramel and Cheddar mix, Cheddar alone and Rocky Road.
What’s Rocky Road popcorn? That’s caramel corn with cashews, almonds, pecans, marshmallows, chocolate and white chocolate, of course.
Hicks develops custom flavors, too. His black-raspberry liqueur with white chocolate came from the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center in Phoenix needing purple popcorn for a fundraiser.
It’s costing about $250,000 to open the Seattle store. Marema and Hicks expect sales eventually will top $750,000, but they are wary of the stagnant economy.
“I’m worried to death,” said Marema, who takes heart from the fact that popcorn sales soared during the Great Depression.
“Even if we’re in a recession, it’s a comfort food and people can afford to buy it,” he said.
— Melissa Allison
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Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or email@example.com.