As good as the sliced brisket sandwiches are, the best thing in the shoebox lunches offered this February at Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que might have been the popcorn. To shine a light on Black entrepreneurship, Juan and Brent Reaves planned the history-lesson-in-a-box contents with additions from local business owners including Debra Moore of Mama Moore’s Gourmet Popcorn.
The snack-sized package of Texas Two Step (cheddar and caramel popcorn) presented a challenge for me, since I’m not a huge fan of popcorn and never eat the sweet kind. But one bite of the tender and fluffy cheddar popcorn set me on a course to pick every bite of the savory flavor out of the bag. In no time at all, I was left with only caramel popcorn.
Deliciousness primes us to keep eating, so I took “just a taste” of the caramel flavor, and I’d call the experience nothing less than an epiphany. I scarfed the buttery sweet treat like there was no tomorrow, and before I knew it, the bag was empty.
I immediately put the shop on my bucket list of places to visit, and this past weekend, some sweet serendipity made a drive to Grand Prairie look like a perfect thing to do on a sunny Saturday.
After running a mobile popcorn concession for several years, Moore opened a retail location three years ago, and last week, the space got a new look. “I used a small Black-owned design studio (Events & Interior Designs by XOErin) to help with my refresh,” Moore says. “They were fabulous. My goal was to have more of a clean, fresh and open look and feel so customers don't feel crowded when they are in the store. I believe my goal was accomplished.”
The store got new oversized photos on the wall too. “I wanted to have photos in the store that showed and reflected my personal brand; I didn't want to use stock photos,” Moore says. “I spent an entire day with a food photographer (Rusty Hill in Dallas) to take these beautiful photos of my product in their 10k square feet space. It was a bit overwhelming to have so many prop options for my product, but I loved the experience and working with his team.”
Although free samples of the flavors and popcorn bars at social events have been curtailed because of the pandemic, the store now has a wheeled table displaying pretty jars of colorful popcorn. The unique piece that sits in the center of the store took almost six months to arrive from India and reminds us that while popcorn is fun, it can also be elegant.
The open kitchen is still a focal point in the shop, and the spot your gaze is most likely to linger on is the series of menu boards listing the 40 flavors. The wide variety of flavors that blanket the popped non-GMO and naturally gluten-free corn kernels is what makes the popcorn irresistible.
Savory flavors range from spicy Buffalo, dill pickle and loaded baked potato to five different varieties of cheddar popcorn. There’s also movie theater butter flavor for traditionalists.
It’s the sweet side at Mama Moore’s that really shines, though. Real butter and real vanilla (no artificial stuff here) are the reason Moore’s caramel popcorn is so good. Inventive recipes make fruit flavors such as orange, grape, blueberry and green apple a treat.
Premixed flavors including green apple with caramel, rainbow flavor (with all the fruity flavors) and Spitfire (spicy cheddar mixed with caramel) combine some favorites, but in the end, I’m not sure they make decision-making any easier. My “one of everything” approach would never work here, but popcorn is a whole grain, which we need more of, right?
Premium flavors include white and milk chocolate drizzle coatings and more. The popular lemon pound cake flavor consists of tart lemon popcorn coated with white chocolate.
The Oreo flavor has cookie bites in it and the banana pudding gets vanilla wafers. That caramel popcorn I loved so much gets white and dark chocolate poured over with a sprinkle of sea salt for the ebony and ivory flavor.
As if we needed more, spring flavors tropical punch, marshmallow, lemonade and watermelon will be added to the mix soon.
Decision paralysis is real here, but with snack-size bags ranging in price from $2.25 to $3.50 each, you can afford to splurge on several. Most of the flavors in the sweet and premium categories can be refrigerated for up to three months.
That comes in handy if a trip to Grand Prairie doesn’t fit into your plans. Sampler packs, gourmet bundles, and a delightful package called a Popcorn Joy Box can be shipped anywhere in the U.S.
The shop also offers numerous sizes of popcorn bags as well as custom labels and flavor mixes for special occasions and corporate events. Bags that say “He popped the question and she said yes” are perfect for engagement parties or wedding favors.
Mama Moore’s also has a fundraising program that she says has been enabled by having a retail location. “Through our fundraising program, groups have 11 of our most popular flavors to choose from to raise funds for their cause,” Moore says. “We offer a 50% profit to any nonprofit organizations that are looking to do fundraising. Currently, our fundraising is offered locally. However, we are working on expanding our program within the next several months to include the entire U.S.”
Mama Moore’s Gourmet Popcorn, 5244 South State Highway 360, No. 310, Grand Prairie, 817-823-1560. Open for in-store (masks required) shopping and curbside pickup noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Online ordering for shipping is also available.