New popcorn snack merchant comes to Berlin
BERLIN—Tom Pfeifer is hoping his kernel of a startup, Eastern Shore Kettle Korn, will burst into a fully blossomed retail and wholesale business, as temperatures heat up this year.
Eastern Shore Kettle Korn is the newest addition to John Derrickson’s rapidly growing shopping plaza on U.S. Route 113, across from the Worcester County Athletic Complex—home of the Berlin Little League (and yes, it will be on sale there this summer). The business is located at 9040 Worcester Hwy.
While he is putting the finishing touches on his showroom, Pfeiffer assures popcorn-lovers they will be able to purchase his snacks at local businesses and special events around Berlin.
“I plan on doing as many special events as I can,” said Pfeifer. Meanwhile, he added that bags of his sweet and salty popcorn are available for purchase at Burley Oak Brewery, on Old Ocean City Boulevard, and Pepper’s Tavern, Frontier Town and Castaways Campground, on Stephen Decatur Hwy (MD 611).
Pfeifer said his goal was to offer a great product that would be affordable as convenient family snacks. The large, 2-foot, bag is $7.50 per bag, or two bags for $13. The medium, 11/2 –foot, bag is $6 or two bags for $10. The small, 10-inch, bag is $4, or two bags for $7.
He also offers free samples in sealed containers, because, he wants to encourage people to try the sweet and salty flavor that, he said, is totally different from any other popcorn offered in the area.
Unlike other brands that are air popped, the process for cooking Pfeifer’s Kettle Korn uses corn oil and sugar with a dusting of salt. He cooks the batches in 160 quart kettles in the store. Everything is there—corn oil, sugar, salt, corn—ready to bag and seal. He uses a special GMO-developed corn that is gluten-free and produces very large popped kernels.
He has a Facebook presence and is in the process of developing an online marketplace for the line, which he will be selling at Berlin Main Street’s special events throughout the year. For now, he regularly sells bags of Kettle Korn at the Berlin Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays, and at the Ocean Pines Farmers Market, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Pfeifer was previously a finance executive for a nursing home in Buffalo, N.Y. which he calls “the city of good neighbors.” He and his wife changed jobs and moved to the area five years ago, he said. Of their new home, Pfeifer said, “This town blows Buffalo away.”
His son is a firefighter in Fairfax County, Va., and his brother, a retired fire captain who started a Kettle Korn business near Hilton Head, S.C., was the inspiration for Pfeifer’s venture.
Pfeifer said at his brother’s encouragement, he checked out the business by working hands-on for a few days. “I saw the response and thought it was something I should look into.” So he decided to try it in Berlin.
Funny thing is, a curious coincidence occurred when he was selling his Kettle Korn in Whitehorse Park in Ocean Pines—a customer mistook him for his brother. When he corrected her misidentification, Pfeifer laughed, she said “I buy popcorn from him every Thursday.”
None of this would have happened without John Derrickson, said Pfeifer, who pointed out the two were introduced to by Berlin Economic and Community Development Director Michael Day.
Initially his store hours will vary as he attempts to serve both his wholesale and his special events customers, Pfeifer said—a down-side of being a one-man operation as the business begins to take off. He is not leaving his customers without options.
Pfeifer invited potential retail customers to feel free to stop by when he is on-site for a bag hot from the popper. Popcorn snackers will not have to be without a Kettle Korn fix when he is not around either. Fresh-popped bags of his products will be on sale two doors down at the Pitt Stop Beer and Wine store, Pfeifer said.
Large orders will be available by appointment.
As the warm seasons approach he said he plans to add café tables, Coca Cola products, and possibly ice cream.
“Once you try mine it is very addictive,” he said.