5 questions with Vaughn Huslig
03/26/2014 11:16 AM
08/08/2014 10:23 AM
Kansas native Vaughn Huslig was working in Omaha as a computer programmer when he first discovered Vic’s Corn Popper.
“We love the product,” Huslig says of himself and his wife, Kristi. He says they got to know Vic Larson, who founded the regional chain.
“We frequented his store a lot.”
The couple returned to Kansas in 2001 to be near family, and Huslig has continued to do programming for an Omaha-based company.
In 2004, Huslig said he and his wife decided to open their own popcorn store.
He said they “always kind of had the notion that we’d want to own our own business.”
They opened Vic’s Corn Popper in Andover at 528 N. Andover Road. Their licensing agreement to use the Vic’s name ended in 2011. Now, their store is known as the Andover Popcorn Co.
The store has more than 20 flavors of popcorn, each of which is made in house, along with its own fudge.
Huslig said 40 percent of the store’s business comes in the last two months of the year around the holidays.
For its first several years, the store grew each year, but that changed with the downturn in the economy. The Husligs have had tax issues, and Huslig said he worries he may have to sell the store. That’s not his preference, though.
Huslig said the popcorn business is a happy one. He even has a happy hour of sorts for students to buy discounted popcorn after school.
“It’s kind of like the old mom-and-pop drugstore feel to it.”
Q. 1 What has business been like through the years?
A. It’s been kind of rocky, actually. … It’ll be 10 years in July … and it’s been a roller-coaster. … With the downturn in the economy in 2008, we kind of took a hit. … Not ever owning a business before, there’s some things that occur you’re not quite ready for. Cash flow is a major issue at times, trying to shuffle things around.
Q. 2 What is your fundraising program, and how is it working?
A. We have a fundraising program that we have developed. We’ve had really good response with schools and teams and such. We take a 32-liquid ounce plastic deli container, and we customize the logo, the label, for the lid … for the group. … They can take orders or they can pre-order a certain number of containers and set up a table at an event, for example. With the new forms that we’ve created, it has the potential of really taking off. We actually just signed a baseball team in New Jersey.
Q. 3 Do you have any popcorn flavors that are unique to your store?
A. Actually we have one that’s called Birthday Cake (with) gourmet white popcorn. We take white chocolate and mix a white cake mix with it … and then we drizzle that mixture with the popcorn, and then we put sprinkles on it. … It really tastes like cake.
Q. 4 It sounds like you might like the popcorn business better than computer programming. Why?
A. I think the reason I like it is being able to work with people. … Sometimes it’s like “Cheers.” You have your familiar regulars coming in. … At Christmastime, when the store is jammed with customers, it’s almost like it’s alive.
Q. 5 What’s one thing few people know about you?
A. I had cataract surgery as, like, a 22-year-old. … I worked on a farm all through high school and college. … A small piece of metal hit my eye. It was so small, the doctor couldn’t see it. … So the rust from that after about four years developed a cataract that I had to have removed. … Luckily, I didn’t lose my sight.