Kentucky’s Popcorn Man Shares His Sweet, “Corny” and Inspiring Story
If you've ever passed by the intersection of Frederica Street and Hill Avenue in Owensboro, Kentucky, you have likely had your senses overwhelmed by the smell of popcorn. Only, it's not just any, run-of-the-mill popcorn. It's Jader's Kettle Corn. That guy you see in the photo knows Jader personally. He's his younger brother, Jerry.
Before he ventured into the kettle corn business, Jerry Feldpausch was a hotel executive. He basically managed nine different hotels in our region. He managed various Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Days Inn properties. In Jerry's words, he "worked as far north as Bloomington (IN), as far south in Morganfield (KY) as far east as La Grange (KY) and as far west as Harrisburg (IL)."
While he was working in hotel management here in the tristate area, his older brother, Jader, owned and operated car washes in San Antonio, Texas. But, back in 2007, Jader had a really cool opportunity to rent a concession spot in the parking lot of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. When he first landed the spot, he wasn't completely sure what he was actually going to be selling at the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games. But, it was there, as Ohio State was taking out Tennessee by a point (85-84) and Memphis was edging Texas A&M by a point (65-64), and the Buckeyes eventually earned their trip to the Final Four, that Jader's Kettle Corn was born.
Well, Jader (and the grandkids he wrangled to help him at the tournament) had pretty much popped all the kettle corn they wanted to. So, Jader called Jerry and asked him if he wanted to take over the business. As it happened, Jerry was retired and was looking for something to do. Kettle corn turned out to be that something.
Later that year, in the parking lot of the Days Inn Owensboro, Jader rolled into town and taught Jerry the business. Jerry immediately started booking some local appearances and recalls one of the very first. He popped up a bunch of batches of kettle corn at the Daviess County Lions Club Fair. He knew, right then and there, that he was hooked. He's been doing it since.
Today, you'll find Jerry set up in Owensboro nearly every day- right there at the intersection of Frederica and Hill. He's usually set up by about 7am and is there through roughly 2pm.
And he's popping and popping and popping- which, by the way, he has perfected. Jerry says, and there's no pun intended, that the key to popping the absolute best kettle corn is having a good EAR.
Jerry has timed his process down to the second. It takes him exactly 3 minutes and 37 seconds to pop up and sweeten a batch. Plus, Jerry knows precisely the right time to dump that popcorn out of the kettle.
Jerry has earned the nickname "The Popcorn Man" and he has dedicated customers who visit him weekly at his Owensboro location. And, like any self-respecting popcorn professional does, Jerry eats a few pieces as he fills every bag that he sells.
As he puts it, "I'm checking the product." You can rest comfortably knowing that your bag of kettle corn has been monitored for quality assurance.
You should check it out too!