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A’maiz’ing business pops up in Wayne

September 16, 2018

WAYNE — If you’re looking for a fun twist on a retro snack, there’s nothing “butter” than one of America’s favorite tried-and-true classics — fresh popcorn.

AquaPop, a small popcorn store located here at 200 Main Street, makes well over 100 varieties of gourmet-flavored popcorn each year, with a standard 12 flavors always on hand and a seasonal flavor-of-the-month.

A range of seasonings include old favorites like caramel corn and cheddar and more unusual offerings like dill pickle, spicy sriracha, honey mustard, cake batter and even Nuclear Movie Theater — a ghost pepper variety.

And for football season, a special Cornhusker variety called “Sweet Red ‘Frost’ of Victory” — a strawberries and cream kettle corn — was recently unveiled.

Adam Manoucheri, who opened AquaPop with his wife, Amy, last summer, said popcorn is popped and flavored in-house in small batches each day.

Jolly Time Pop Corn of Sioux City provides the kernels, and Amy comes up with the flavorings, Manoucheri said.

“We’ll take ideas from other food, like if you see chips being made in certain flavors. We’ll do a monthly flavor, too, so we try to decide what’s a good fit for, say, September. Then we’ll have that unique flavor for just that month, but we may revisit it again sometime in the future,” Manoucheri said.

AquaPop also pairs up with other small, local businesses in Wayne and other towns.

For instance, beer caramel flavors are made using ingredients from Johnnie Byrd Brewery, which opened recently across the street from the popcorn store. A coffee variety is sold at Douglas Street Coffee in O’Neill, with their products used as a flavoring.

Other sweet treats for sale at AquaPop include craft sodas in glass bottles and retro candy that can be difficult to find in Northeast Nebraska. In fact, one variety comes all the way from the United Kingdom.

“A big one we sell is what used to be called Marathon Bars. They’re not available in the U.S. anymore, but they’re made by Cadbury in the U.K. You can’t just walk into a grocery store and get some of what we sell here. We’ve tried to find the outlier stuff,” Manoucheri said.

Pinball, air hockey and cabinet arcade video games are located in an adjoining room at AquaPop and offer another fun piece of old-school entertainment.

“We also have a multicade that has a lot of the really old Atari and Sega stuff. Then we have a Super Shot basketball game. We’ll probably add more games as time and money allows,” Manoucheri said.

For popcorn aficionados who can’t make the trip to Wayne, there will soon be the option to order AquaPop’s offerings online. The company’s new website is currently in the works and should be up and going before the holidays.

“Everyone has been very, very supportive. It has been amazing over the past year, and we really love what we’re doing. People are happy to come in here, and it’s been something fun to do,” he said.

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Want to have some fun?

Those looking for a blast to the past where fun foods and arcade games ruled are invited to pop in to AquaPop on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aquapop also follows the seasonal farmer’s market hours of operation in Wayne, opening Wednesday evenings and extended hours on Saturdays.

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