The aroma hits the senses and you are immediately transported to celebratory times – days on the boardwalk at the beach, riding the rides at the town carnival, or just kicking back on a summer day. Bob Porter of Easton has turned a hobby of making kettle corn, that his wife and friends enjoyed, into a booming business that is spreading across the Delmarva Peninsula.
His business, Bubba Bob’s Country Treats, is taking the festivals and shows by storm while building a healthy retail business in Maryland and Sussex County, Delaware.
Bob comments, “I have always liked kettle corn. I made it at home in a whirly pop with my wife Natalie.”
Bob, who owns Sharper Graphics and Le Hatchery Galleria on Kemp Lane, was offered the opportunity to purchase kettle corn equipment from a tenant last year. He then spent the next two to three months testing and developing his own kettle corn recipe, building upon the one he made at home that included just four simple ingredients – corn, corn oil, sugar, and salt.
He comments, “We have really gotten the recipe where we want it and have refined the popping so that the corn is very light and airy, which has really enhanced the product.”
Bob decided to try Bubba’s Kettle Corn out at last year’s Balloon and Wine Festival and it was a hit. He adds, “It was something I was doing for fun – something we wanted to do for kicks and giggles. I never intended for it to turn into a business.”
Since then, Bubba’s Kettle Corn will be at most festivals and events in a 50-mile radius of Easton. At the recent Sea Glass Festival in St. Michaels, Bob gave out 2,500 samples and sold 700 bags of kettle corn.
What draws people to kettle corn? Bob states, “It’s the sugar and the salt combination. It’s addictive. Once you taste it, you want more.”
Bob doesn’t cook the kettle corn on site of festivals because of quality control issues. Although he doesn’t have the aroma from cooking it onsite to attract people to his booth, he gives out samples to his customers and smiles as they walk away knowing in five minutes, they will be back to buy a bag or two.
The name “Bubba’s Kettle Corn” comes from an endearing term Bob used for friends, family, and even his animals. He reflects, “I had both a dog and a cat named Bubba over the years. It then became a term I used for a friend of mine after we were working on a project to take truckloads of clothing to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. He became Bubba Larry on the project, and I became Bubba Bob. Since then, it seemed to fit the carnival atmosphere I was creating when I started the kettle corn business.
The business has expanded as its name suggests: Bubba Bob’s Country Treats. Through his new trailer rig, Bob is also offering shaved ice and fresh lemonade. He recently purchased the shaved ice equipment, which creates “snow” ice, a very fine grade of ice. He is making his own syrups using concentrates and customers are able to personalize their snow cone flavors any way they like.
Bob, who has help from a friend, Wayne Dyott, and a salesperson, Jerry Rue, adds, “We have a lot of fun with the product and the people.”
Reflecting on the businesses he has been involved with over the years – John Moll notecards and graphic printing – Bob states, “The technological advances in the world have affected my businesses over the years. Going back to an old-fashioned product like kettle corn that never gets old is something I can take into my old age.”
At present, Bob produces about 2,000 bags of kettle corn a month. Fresh product is available in stores every 10 days. Bubba’s Kettle Corn is available in retail locations across the Mid Shore including, Coles Seafood and Town and Country Wine, Liquor in Easton; Graul’s Market, Treasure Cove Thrift Shop, and Justamere Trading Post in St. Michaels; Oxford Market in Oxford; Tilghman Island Country Store in Tilghman; All About Hair in Ridgely; Bullock’s Deli and Shore Gourmet in Denton; Ebenezer Discount & Variety Store in Federalsburg; Reliance Market in Rhodesdale; TJ Farms in Preston; Beat The Rush Delivery, Cabin Fever Play Centre, and Simmons Center Market in Cambridge; Centreville Liquors in Centreville; and Rhodes Store in Church Hill. It is also sold in locations throughout Sussex and Kent counties, Delaware.
Visit bubbabobs.com for locations. The kettle corn is also sold at the company’s Easton location at 125 Kemp Lane in Easton, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Bubba Bob’s Kettle Corn is also being used for local fundraisers. For further information, call Bob at 410-310-7544.