Talk about a local boy done good.
John Marshall High School graduate D’Angelo Tines grew up putting on hot dog and lemonade stands. That experience spiraled into his passion for sales, and he now owns and operates Popus Gourmet Popcorn in downtown Rochester, Minnesota, which he opened in November 2022.
“I never knew I wanted to be in sales,” Tines said of his surprise occupation.
He started off majoring in computer science at college, and completed about a year of those studies before realizing it wasn’t his thing. “I didn’t like it,” he said. “I like speaking to people, I like human interaction. I talked to the counselors and they pointed me to mass communications.”
After his college graduation, Tines worked in a few jobs before signing the lease for Popus Gourmet Popcorn on July 30, 2022. His cousin had opened such a retailer in Illinois in 2016, and Tines had a hunch the business would do well in his hometown of Rochester as well.
“I dove in head first,” he said. “It was a crazy journey, a big learning experience.”
The shop’s opening date was pushed back from September to November as Tines overcame challenge after challenge during the build-out phase of his popcorn business.
“You can’t pick up a hammer in Rochester until you have a permit,” he remembers. He also had trouble finding popcorn equipment, and was sourcing from around the country “piecing things together,” he said. “With your back up against the wall, you are going to get creative.”
He soon realized how important a team is, as December – his second month in business – shaped up to be his highest grossing month for sales. During his first December, Tines said he was in the popcorn shop until 2:30 a.m. bagging popcorn with family and close friends.
Around this time he read the book “Profit First” and it changed his life, he said. “It completely changed how I look at business,” he said. “I looked at the bottom line and I started cutting down on anything that didn’t affect quality and service. I don’t need to pay someone $1,000 a month to do SEO. I take the profit out first and what is left over, is what we have to spend on marketing.”
Another challenge in his business has been escalating cheese prices. He said he’s working on a solution, which might be contracting with a Wisconsin farm to produce cheese for all the popcorn made between the family’s popcorn shops in Rochester and Illinois.
As for customers, Tines has been pleasantly surprised to find that 60 to 65 percent of sales are from Mayo Clinic visitors who are spending time in Rochester for medical care. They then fall in love with the product, and place online orders once they’re back at home, he said.
“We have to be down here,” Tines said of locating his new business in downtown Rochester. “We just have to be where people are walking around. And I didn’t realize how big online traffic would be, that’s new to me. But I’m obviously very happy with it.”
Popus Popcorn is open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. They have 50 flavors of popcorn, with a record of mixed flavors being 14 in a bag. Tines’s fave is Oreo because he loves Oreo cookies, and a newer flavor he likes is root beer float.
“You can taste the fizziness in the popcorn,” he said. “A lot of people are hesitant about banana pudding. Then they try it and they like it. It happens to be one of our top 15 sellers.”