Popcorn Chronicles

Why Popcorn? It Just Popped Up...

Author: Tawni Palin


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The history of popcorn stretches back thousands of years, with evidence of its consumption dating as far back as over 6000 years ago in what is now Mexico.

Archaeologists have discovered that people in the Americas were using corn for popping even before it was used as a staple for food. The oldest popcorn known to date was found in New Mexico's Bat Cave, with aged ears of popcorn ranging from approximately 4,000 to 5,640 years old. Indigenous peoples across the Americas popped corn for eating and decorating clothing and other ceremonial ornaments.

Popcorn gained widespread popularity in the United States in the 19th century, becoming a typical snack at fairs and social gatherings. Its popularity soared during the Great Depression as an inexpensive treat and again in the mid-20th century with the advent of television and the rise of movie theaters, which became almost synonymous with movie watching. Today, popcorn remains a beloved snack, enjoyed in various forms around the globe.

My Story, Not History

But this isn't the story I will write about today. No, I want to tell you my story, and maybe that will give you a better idea of "Why Popcorn?"

I come from a simple middle-class family in urban Montana. I have to say "urban" because I live in the "Metropolis" we call Billings, but as you can imagine, all of Montana is pretty rural. Anyway, I digress.

Growing up, popcorn was a central part of my diet, not really, but it was my favorite snack. Was and always will be! My father learned the art of stovetop popcorn with the perfect amount of butter, salt, and sometimes parmesan. We couldn't have a movie night without it. Seriously, it was almost sacrilegious even to suggest not making popcorn when discussing what movie we would watch that night.

Popcorn crept its way into our game night snack bars, and if there were any leftovers from the previous night, I would snuggle up with a large "Cottage Cheese" Tupperware bowl and munch while reading a book.

In college, whenever I feel homesick or lonely, I make myself a bowl of popcorn and press on with work, but because I hadn't mastered the stovetop technique, I settled for Mr. Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theater Butter packets and did my own little tweaking.

But for me, popcorn wasn't just about the taste or the nostalgia. It represented something more that connected me to my family and community. It was a symbol of comfort, joy, and togetherness. But it also is a great snack that turned into a passion.

In 2016, I was trying out my wings and flew from the nest, but I wasn't having much luck in the careers department. By December of the same year, I hadn't secured the job I wanted, so Dad put out a recall notice and brought me home. He wanted to start a business, and he wanted to do it with me.

Starting with Ceci's Popcorn

By 2018, we were still brainstorming ideas of what we wanted to do with our little business that didn't exist yet. In Spring 2018, my father returned from a Track & Field tournament in Pocatello, ID. He had met with some old college friends, and they were running The Popcorn Shop with their family.

Billings used to have a popcorn shop but had closed down about a decade ago, so he thought it would be a great idea to start our own. We agreed with our family friends, Kevin and Christy Kelshaw, that we would pay them for the ability to copycat their process and learn their recipes. They were amazing mentors and very patient as we learned this delicious business from their expertise.

On September 14, 2019, we opened our food trailer, Ceci's Popcorn! We originally chose the name Ceci’s Popcorn because of Cecilia Carmichael. She was a sweet lady who taught us the value of taking pride in our work and enjoying the people around us. She was an old-fashioned, hard-working gal who loved people, parties, and popcorn.

We also loved the name because we wanted to serve our Billings central community (CC) with a snack that promoted fun times and togetherness. We are all about bringing people together to enjoy each other and to celebrate the blessings we share as Montanans.

Anyway, we started a little late but made it through the winter with events and corporate gifting, and then Covid hit. I had barely gotten this shop off the ground, and suddenly, we were shut down because we were nonessential.

But we didn't let that stop us. We used that time to make a name for ourselves at events and with corporations around town, expand our marketing, and were reopened by April. And finally, just this year, we opened a brick-and-mortar location in Downtown Billings.

Enter Montana Popcorn Company

Today, Ceci's Popcorn has evolved into the Montana Popcorn Company. We are proud to offer over 20 unique popcorn flavors, including some savory and sweet options we make ourselves. Our business continues to grow, and our loyal customers continually return for more.

Montana Popcorn Company’s story still embodies the values of love and hard work, but we have expanded our family reach all of Montana and share its blessings with the rest of the country.

We want to be known as a company that reflects Montana's values: hard work, community, and the ability to enjoy the good times.

We focus on carefully crafted flavors. We fill every bag with love for maximum enjoyment and look forward to every kernel bringing joy to our customers. The Montana Popcorn Company’s Team looks for ways to impact our community positively.

But why popcorn? For me, it represents community and good times. For us, it also represents growth, perseverance, and determination. It's not just about the snack; it's about the story behind it. And that is why popcorn will always hold a special place in my heart and business. So come on down to Downtown Billings, grab a bag of our delicious popcorn, and experience the love for yourself.