Article By: Samantha Cronk
Photos By: Josh Triggs
Before you ever see the mobile concession unit, you’ll smell the irresistible scent of handcrafted kettle popcorn that acts as an irresistible calling card for the new business Mission Popcorn, owned and operated by Martinsburg residents Travis and Ginger Bishop.
Enthusiastic fans of the snack, Travis and Ginger took their part-time hobby of popping kettle corn for friends and family into a full-time mobile business, Mission Popcorn. Travis said he got the idea to make his own kettle corn when he was one of more than a dozen waiting in line for a bag of kettle corn at a Virginia pumpkin patch festival.
“At this festival, we look forward to the kettle corn every year, and I was standing in line waiting for the kettle corn along with like 16 other people. It was like $8 a bag, and I started doing the math. That adds up,” he said. “I went home that night and started crunching some numbers on what it would cost to start up. My wife and I did our homework and put our thoughts, ideas and money together, and we bought into the business.”
For about three years, Travis and Ginger popped kettle corn as a hobby and parttime business during the holidays and weekends. It wasn’t until this spring that the pair decided to make Mission Popcorn a full-time endeavor after an overwhelming response from friends and online requests during the Christmas season for their red and green kettle popcorn.
Since purchasing the equipment and mobile concession unit, Travis and Ginger have put the tires to the road, making Mission Popcorn a familiar sight at events, festivals, football games and weddings. One of the distinctions that was important for the couple is that their popcorn is true kettle popped, not air popped.
Travis pops the corn in a large kettle that is almost three feet wide by three feet deep, stirred with a wooden paddle, a process, he said, that makes all the difference. “There’s a huge difference between air popped and true kettle made. So, we make a true handcrafted kettlemade popcorn. You get the pieces that have been a little burnt, that dark flavor. It’s a treat to get those dark ones, and you can only get that from a kettle,” he said.
To make Mission Popcorn a truly unique and delicious product, the Bishop’s decided to offer multiple flavors of their kettle corn. Customers can choose between six custom favors including traditional kettle corn, country barbeque, sea salt and real butter, crabby bay – a blend of crab spice and Old Bay, Jamaican Jerk and sea salted caramel – which is overwhelming fan favorite best seller. Travis and Ginger are also working on two new flavors for a future release: jalapeno cheddar and parmesan garlic.
With their mobile unit, the pair travels to different events and festivals throughout the region as well as participate in local events like Bike Night and Fridays @ 5 in downtown Martinsburg. Since going mobile, the business has been asked to cater different events including fundraisers for local groups, family and corporate events, as well as the official popcorn for the Hedgesville High School band boosters, providing kettle corn for all of the Hedgesville High School home football games.
They’ve even provided kettle corn for a popcorn buffet at a wedding. The business also offers gift options for special events, the holidays and other occasions and will ship throughout the continental United States.
As word of mouth continues to grow and the kettle corn’s popularity increases, that success comes with its own unique challenges. In addition to owning and operating Mission Popcorn, Travis and Ginger are the owners of Tannerman’s Weapon Systems in Martinsburg, also a full-time job.
“It’s a challenge running two businesses. We’ve already seen the increase in the popcorn business that justifies going full time. It was all based on the reaction from our customers and the orders have been coming in and the feedback has been amazing,” Travis said.
The two work together to handle the challenge of a second full-time business, with Travis making the kettle popcorn and experimenting on new flavors and Ginger tackling the logistical side of the business from bagging to labelling and selling. Although hard work, Travis said, seeing people enjoy their product and carry around bags with the logo and popcorn is an incredibly great feeling that only encourages them to work harder. That positive feedback has prompted the pair to look toward the future of the business. While mobile now, Travis hopes to one day have a store front to sell their popcorn.
“My future goal is to be in a small brick and mortar store in downtown Martinsburg. We want to be on main street. I also want to have it where you can smell the popcorn popping so the aroma can hit the street. When I’m cooking it at home, they can smell it two blocks away. It would really help create that downtown atmosphere,” he said.
“We’re thankful to do everything that we can with everyone, whether a small, medium or large event, because the silver lining always comes,” Travis said. “We really do want to give back and to help people do fundraisers. I want to give back to the community that gives me the opportunity to do what I do within that community. I just want to give back in any form.”
That desire to give back is part of the explanation behind the name “Mission Popcorn.” As a veteran, Travis wanted to ensure his business would be able to serve the people, especially veterans, so every quarter per bag sold goes toward local Post Traumatic Stress Disorder veterans’ organizations.
“I have a lot of friends who have PTSD, and we’ve lost friends with PSTD to suicides. We just want to give back. Mission Popcorn comes from the mission of the military guy who wants to continue the mission of service the people. It’s a lifelong mission until the day we expire. It’s just in my DNA to serve people,” he said.
Mission Popcorn is available for orders or to book for an event by calling or texting 304-283-4592. The business can also be reached through its website, missionpopcornco.com, or Facebook. Available