EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — When Donna Fickey and her husband, Shawn, took over Pappy and Grammy's Kettle Corn from his parents, Jerry and Cindy Fickey, seven years ago, Donna thought she would be working part-time.
But she lives with the business almost around the clock and feels like she "lives and breathes kettle corn."
Fickey, a former cake decorator at Piece of Cake in Evansville and a former Kroger Bakery associate in Martins Ferry, Ohio, said the popcorn business keeps her busy nearly nonstop seven days a week.
"We don't do anything but popcorn. If we get any free time or schedule free time, it's all about getting with family members in Ohio and Virginia," she said.
"When I'm not out selling the popcorn at different events, I'm helping with popping and bagging, or I'm thinking about doing something different with the product or with the bag or adding new flavors," she told the Evansville Courier & Press.
But greetings from customers as she pulls up to a sales site make it all worthwhile. "I love hearing 'The popcorn lady's here!' " she said. "It makes my day."
For the most part, Donna, 44, runs the business.
Shawn, 43, works full-time at Home City Ice at 650 Division St., next to the couple's popcorn headquarters, but Donna Fickey says he enjoys handling most of the popping.
The Fickeys get 50-pound bags of Hoosier-grown kernels for popping from Sam's Club. Each bag makes enough popcorn to fill on average 150 to 175 individual bags.
"The kernels used to cost less than $10 per 50-pound bag when my in-laws started Pappy and Grammy's 10 years ago.
"It now costs us $34," Donna Fickey said, blaming the increase on droughts in recent years and the tight economy.
Pappy and Grammy's popcorn sells for $4 per six-ounce bag and $2 per one-and-one-half-ounce bag.
It comes in 20 flavors, ranging from caramel, chocolate toffee, cheesy caramel, caramel apple and fruit confetti to chocolate cherry, chocolate banana, spicy barbecue, hot cinnamon and sour cream and chives.
The 2013 growing season had Fickey selling the popcorn at six farmers markets in Evansville.
"We love the farmers markets. It's pretty much the same vendors who go to all the markets. Everybody looks out for each other, like a family ... We help each other get set up and taken down," Donna Fickey said.
Her schedule has included Midtown District Farmers Market, across from Adele's Naturally health food store on Lincoln Avenue, east of Boeke Road.
It also includes the Deaconess Hospital's farmers market at the Downtown campus, St. Mary's Medical Center's farmers market on a hospital parking lot, the Evansville Farmers Market Downtown and the Historic Newburgh Farmers Market.
When Fickey started with the Evansville Farmers Market, she sold her popcorn from a small space beneath a tiny umbrella.
The only flavor available back then was the Original Kettle Corn.
This summer, Fickey broke record popcorn sales at the Vanderburgh County Fair, selling more than 2,000 bags.
She also sells the popcorn at a variety of fundraiser events, including those supporting the local Humane Society, kids and cancer, and at Jam Fest cheerleading competition.
Fickey is grateful to have an SMG contract for selling her popcorn exclusively at all events held at The Centre Downtown, where SMG manages the entertainment.
Pappy and Grammy's fan base started with Roberts Stadium, where SMG also managed the entertainment and awarded the company's founders a contract to sell popcorn there.
Jerry Fickey, a retired architect, and Cindy Fickey, an echocardiogram technician for the Deaconess Heart Group, started the business for making extra money.
Today, Broadway shows, Disney shows and other events booked at The Centre bring big orders for Pappy and Grammy's.
"We usually sell between 200 to 300 bags per event there," Donna Fickey said.
The Fickeys have no plan to sell the popcorn outside of Vanderburgh County.
"I'm happy in Evansville. It's not overwhelming to the point I'm drowning in work ... There are lots of popcorn lovers in town," Donna Fickey said.
Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com