Kirsten Bender is opening the Popcorner in Andover in a popcorn corner she’s quite familiar with.
Bender was a high school sophomore in 2004 – back then she was known as Kirsten Placzek – when she became the first employee of Vic’s Corn Popper at 528 N. Andover Road in Andover.
She regularly returned to the store on breaks from school.
“It’s like the one job I truly never got sick of coming into work every day,” Bender says.
The store eventually became known as the Andover Popcorn Co., and Bender says she told owners Vaughn and Kristi Huslig that if they ever wanted to sell, she’d be interested in buying the business.
That’s what’s happening now.
“I hope to build a really reputable brand and expand throughout the Wichita area,” Bender says.
She graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a degree in business management and a minor in marketing.
“I just have such a passion for small businesses.”
Bender says she plans to have an emphasis on the gift-giving market. In addition to popcorn and popcorn balls, the Popcorner also will sell fudge and what Bender calls nostalgic candy, such as saltwater taffy and old-fashioned candy sticks. She plans to make everything except for the candy, at least initially.
“If I could learn how to do that, that would be really fun,” Bender says.
The Popcorner opens Sept. 30, and there will be a grand opening in October or November.
Sept. 27 is the Andover Popcorn Co.’s last day in business.
Vaughn Huslig says he’ll continue to focus on his banking career, which he’s had in addition to the store for several years.
He says Bender was a great employee.
“I’m really excited,” Huslig says. “She’s going to bring in a lot of good ideas. I foresee her taking it to the next level that we haven’t had a chance to get to.”