Eric Biro’s favorite memory is sitting on a curb during his hometown’s summer PrairieFest, eating popcorn and watching the fireworks above his head in Oswego, Ill.
He describes that scene as one of pure happiness.
Now that childhood memory has morphed into his Centennial Hills gourmet popcorn shop, Popularity, at 6640 N. Durango Drive No. 140.
“I’ve always been the popcorn guy,” Biro said. “If you think about it, popcorn is always a good time. You don’t have popcorn after a breakup. You have popcorn when you’re watching a movie or listening to music at a festival. That’s what I want to recreate for people. Those feel-good memories.”
Since Biro moved to Las Vegas in 1996, he has searched for a popcorn shop that could satisfy the taste of his hometown.
Much to his surprise, he could not find the proper flavor, so instead of waiting for the right store to open, he began making his own popcorn.
“The key is to air-pop, but it’s expensive. That’s why you can’t find this type of popcorn everywhere,” Biro said. “Air-popping creates a lighter kernel that doesn’t require completely saturating the popcorn with flavor to overcome the oil used to pop.”
The air-pop method also erases the intense buttery smell one typically finds at movie theaters.
He started with classic caramel popcorn and began experimenting with unique flavors.
He and his fiance, Delilah Marquez, opened the business more than a year ago after Biro started receiving popcorn orders from friends and family.
“This part of town has been really cool and supportive of our business,” Biro said. “Even though I lose the battle with Cold Stone (located next door) most of the time, the risk of opening this shop has definitely been rewarding.”
Biro enjoys experimenting with different flavors, which come from customer requests, trends, or even his dreams.
“Yes, we really dream of popcorn,” Biro said.
The store offers 25 flavors, including cheddar, rainbow (blueberry, strawberry and orange) and hot cinnamon.
Other surprising blends include coconut caramel chocolate popcorn that features caramel with real coconut and a chocolate drizzle, and cookies and cream popcorn with white chocolate and Oreo cookie crumble.
Due to customer requests, he created the sea salt and vinegar popcorn and the cheddar habanero, a personal favorite of Nellis Air Force Base military personnel.
Biro said people come in to buy popcorn to ship to their loved ones who are stationed in other countries and are feeling homesick.
Despite the lack of advertising, Biro said he believes his community efforts and his customer service have gained him a strong following.
His customers could not agree more.
As soon as Laurie Day comes in, Biro immediately asks her about her day and about people in her life.
“See, this is why I come into his store,” Day said. “He’s so passionate about popcorn, and he’s sweet. He always talks to his customers, and he remembers what we talk about. “
Customer Jaime Butler echoed Day.
“We’re kind of addicted to the popcorn here,” Butler said. “The rainbow popcorn is my favorite.”
“It’s made with real fruit,” Biro adds.
He also features a popcorn lab section in his menu where customers can sample new flavors that Biro is trying, and, as always, Biro encourages his customers to try flavors before they buy.
He admits his more unique flavors are sometimes hit or miss.
He recently tried a mojito flavor that did not make it to the menu.
“I thought it was great, but luckily, my regulars are always honest with me,” Biro said.
Customers can expect pumpkin spice to return in the fall and white chocolate to make a comeback for the holidays.
“This is the type of place where you come in, and right away, you get to meet the owner,” Biro said. “It’s locally owned and operated. I just want to share my passion. That’s why I’m here.”
Prices range from $3.70 for a small order to $15.35 for a large. Popularity is open from 11 a.m. 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and is closed Sunday.
Call 702-631-0370 or visit pgplv.com.
— To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email email@example.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.Popularity
6640 N. Durango Drive No. 140
Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.
Call 702-631-0370 or visit pgplv.com.