MAKER MONDAY: MEET BROOKE & NICK
Brooke & Nick Bartlett first met on a blind date. According to Brooke, it didn’t go so well, but eventually they hit it off. You can probably tell by looking at these pictures what a joyful, fun-loving and quirky couple they are. I have so enjoyed getting to know them.
I don’t know about you but I think Nick makes one heck of an Abraham Lincoln. (But am I missing something, what’s the axe for?)
Brooke & Nick married in December 2012. What a gorgeous bride she was!
Being huge movie buffs and avid popcorn fanatics, one day a friend came over and said “Hey, you should start a popcorn business!” The timing was right because Brooke had recently lost her job at a small boutique that closed and they were looking for a way to replace income. So, in 2013 their first baby was born…Say Hello to GOPO! (If any of you have ever started your own business like Brooke, Nick & I have then you 100% know why a person would refer to it as a baby. It’s a lot of nursing and sleepless nights. Worrying, feeding, nurturing and pouring everything you have into it. )
GOPO is short for Gourmet Popcorn…get it? Brooke & Nick started it from their apartment with some mobile equipment and eventually were able to move their operation to the kitchen of B&B Bagel during the evening and overnight hours when the kitchen was closed. At that time they did not sell their popcorn retail, but had a small subscription business, catered outside events and weddings and occasionally sold their popcorn at community festivals downtown.
Nick is the mad scientist behind all the recipes. Initially he did all the popping and cooking. (GOPO is air-popped…no oil! After popping it’s coated in one of their made from scratch signature toppings and baked in a convection oven.) Brooke runs the business side of things and is fine-tuning her popping and cooking skills. Together they worked for several years just to perfect their signature 1/2 Caramel recipe.
Why is it called 1/2 Caramel? Made with all natural ingredients and no preservatives it has only about 1/2 of the ingredients of other store-bought caramel popcorns which are made to sit on a shelf for months (if not years). No sitting on the shelf for GOPO, its “MADE TO EAT” as they like to say.
Also, they found that in the case of caramel corn…less is MORE! They use a bit less caramel coating than other caramel corns which keeps it less sticky and not too sugary sweet…more buttery. It is so, so good you guys.Even with the amazing recipes, the business grew slowly. They had ups and downs and periods of exhaustion and uncertainty. Then, in August 2015 Brooke & Nick had their son, Nolan.
And a new kind of exhaustion set in. By April 2016, Brooke & Nick were worn out from taking care of a newborn and juggling the overnight popping & cooking schedule, as well as Nick working his full-time job outside of GOPO. Brooke heard from another one of my vendors that I had a small commercial kitchen inside Plume that may be able to accommodate their mobile popping equipment. Brooke honestly wasn’t sure what the future of GOPO was. Her initial interest was in cooking at Plume only, hoping for more daytime hours of popping and eliminating the nighttime work. Selling at Plume had never really occurred to her.
When I tried my first bite of Slowburn Kettle I knew there was more potential for them than even they realized. It’s so good. It’s a kettle corn, so it has the sweet glaze on the outside you might be used to with kettle corns…but underneath is a delicious spicy barbecue coating. It is in fact…a slooooow buuuurrrnnn. We sell this as an individual flavor but GOPO also has their COMO Mix which is a combo of Slowburn Kettle + 1/2 Caramel. A wonderful sweet & spicy combo.
I was so thrilled to provide GOPO a place to make their popcorn in the early days of our relationship, but even more loved helping them build the retail arm for locals to sample and buy it where none previously existed. Another side benefit to me was Brooke came on board as one of my part-time employees at Plume. What a blessing! I loved overhearing her talk to customers. She made it a priority to get to know each of you and also learned the stories of all the other makers within Plume so she could pass those along to visitors to Plume.
Together Brooke and I refined the GOPO packaging and labeling to better suit retail shoppers buying preferences, solidified pricing strategies, developed gifting options for popcorn enthusiasts and fine-tuned the flavor menu options.
By December 2016 GOPO outgrew the humble little kitchen at Plume and moved into their own commercial kitchen space in Fulton. Plume remains their exclusive retail outlet in Columbia but they’ve added another small shop in California, MO and hope to have a retail operation open in Fulton soon. After 16 months of selling at Plume, not only are their retail sales growing month after month but GOPO’s outside event and wedding orders have increased significantly and other larger scale opportunities are on the horizon. So much so that Brooke can no longer really justify working at Plume. She needs to stay at the helm of GOPO. That’s sad for me, but also something to celebrate!
This Saturday, Sept 2nd GOPO will kick off with the Mizzou Tigers at Faurot Field. You can find Brooke & Nick at stand #14 on the Alumni side of the stadium.
They’re excited about the future of GOPO and continue to hope that what once was just a pipe dream, may one day be a business that fully supports their family. It’s been so great to be a part of the blossoming of this little “micro-business” as Brooke affectionately calls it. If you ask me, I think they’re on the bubble of some pretty great things and won’t be a little micro-business for much longer…but I’ll be here for them for as long as they need me.
And if any of YOU need me this week, I’ll be behind the counter happily selling and munching on my personal favorite GOPO flavor…Everything Tiger.
P.S. You may POP-IN to Plume (PUN fully intended) and purchase GOPO every Thursday – Saturday. We keep several gallons of each flavor on hand each week. If you need larger orders for parties and events, it’s best to call ahead so we can make sure to have the quantities you need. Scroll down for more pricing and flavor info!