Waffle Cone owner expands to Mr. Popin’
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Copperas Cove has a new popcorn shop in town, Mr. Popin’, located right next door to the Waffle Cone in the Cove Terrace Shopping Center.
John Hayes, owner of Waffle Cone, expanded his business into the suite next door and into a location in Belton months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hayes received a grant from the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation that paid for a new 24-quart horizontal batch freezer, replacing his six-quart machine and allowing for the Waffle Cone to produce even more of its own ice cream for both the Copperas Cove and Belton locations.
“The popcorn business is just an add on,” Hayes said. “We opened the store in Belton, so we needed a creamery. We needed a place that we can make ice cream in bulk, so we rented this space over here, and it’s huge. I don’t need all of this for a creamery, so I needed to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of it.”
Hayes turned the front part of the large rented space into a popcorn shop and a way to connect the Waffle Cone to the party room next door. In the back half of the space, Hayes works on more than a dozen flavors of popcorn, ice cream and cotton candy.
“I am not trying to get rich off the popcorn business,” Hayes said. “It is more tedious than ice cream, I am here to tell you.”
Hayes first started selling popcorn about three weeks ago and said his first batch of popcorn was awful.
Since then, he is working to tweak the recipes and cooking times and how each flavor is prepared.
Hayes said he had to figure out to work the machine that helps coat the popcorn for the candied and caramel popcorn flavors so that it came out perfectly coated and not too crunchy or clumpy.
“Finding out how to make gourmet ice cream is leaps and bounds easier, I learned,” Hayes said. “There is just so much out there about ice cream and once you understand the basics, you can learn the trick. There’s almost nothing about popcorn. It’s like some secret or something.”
Hayes learned that he could make his own candy coatings for the fruity flavors by using cotton candy sugar, and he makes real caramel for the caramel popcorn.
Hayes said he likes to keep a smaller amount of stock and switch out the popcorn flavors frequently to avoid selling stale popcorn.
“It’s not how I wanted to do this business when I actually envisioned it last year, but COVID has just, it’s made my life a nightmare,” Hayes said.
Hayes had planned to bring on an additional full-time employee after the expansion but was unable to do so due to COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown.
The Waffle Cone switched to its winter hours on March 17 before closing its doors just days later, like most dining establishments in town. On March 22, the Waffle Cone began offering curbside ice cream service.
Now, Hayes says he is focused on making it to March 2021, when the busier ice cream season starts again. The lesser known side of the ice cream business is the importance of saving money for the winter months, Hayes said.
The popcorn side of the business is what Hayes hopes will help carry the ice cream business through the winter, which normally has slow sales when there isn’t a global pandemic.
“My goal, and it’s always been my goal for this business, is that I want popcorn to pay for the rent here,” Hayes said. “If I can get popcorn to pay for the rent on all this, and the party room helping out, and the one employee that works the popcorn over here, I’ll be happy.”
Hayes added that he feels confident about the popcorn now that he is making popcorn that people will want to eat.
Mr. Popin’ has several flavors and three types of popcorn. There are the dry, seasoned flavors such as cheddar cheese, white cheddar, nacho cheese, dill pickle, Cajun, barbeque and bacon and cheese. There are caramel flavors such as caramel, caramel apple, sea salt caramel, sea salt caramel and cheddar and sweet and salty. There are also the fruity, candied flavors such as strawberry, blue raspberry, grape, cherry and orange.
A 23-ounce bag of popcorn is $4.00, while a 13-ounce bag of popcorn sells for $3. The bags of cotton candy, which are also hand spun onsite, are $3.
The Waffle Cone also has a party room available for rent, with rental prices starting at $75 for two hours, with seating for up to 2//4.
The Waffle Cone is located at 508 Cove Terrace Shopping Center. Mr. Popin’ is located right next door. Both shops are operating under the winter hours, which are 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.