A Highlands Ranch purveyor of gourmet popcorn is sharing kernels of kindness with those on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.
Cornzapoppin, at 9555 S. University Boulevard, has been delivering hundreds of bags of its popcorn -- it boasts more than 40 flavors available at any one time -- to local hospitals, fire stations and the Douglas County Sheriff's Highlands Ranch substations.
Since the drive began in mid-April, Cornzapoppin has delivered "well over $3,000 worth of product," proprietor Rich Van Hersett estimates.
Popcorn has been delivered to a different location each weekday: South Metro Fire Stations 17 and 18 in Highlands Ranch on Mondays and Thursdays respectively, UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital on Tuesdays, Littleton Adventist Hospital on Wednesdays and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office's Highlands Ranch substation on Fridays.
The program dovetails with a business shift forced by the COVID-19 crisis for the family-owned business, founded in 2003.
Normally, "the backbone of our company is business-to-business sales" nationwide, Van Hersett said. "The people we supply most are hotels, schools, churches, corporate folks, catering companies. But this kind of business has more or less dried up. So we have pivoted a bit to business-to-customer."
That means more sales and deliveries to local, non-business customers. The usual five to 10 deliveries a week has risen to 40 or more, as home-bound customers stock up on movie-night munchies, Van Hersett said.
"When you're dealt lemons, you try to make lemonade," he said.
Van Hersett's customers often said they wanted to help first responders, he noted.
"This is really something that came from our customers," he said. "We were reciving calls or emails or Facebook posts from out customers, saying, 'We love your popcorn; what can we do further to help?' At that point we said, 'Why don't we do something for everyone?'"
So he decided to incorporate a donation program into the company's ordering system. He told customers that if they used the promo code "RESPOND" when ordering, Cornzapoppin would donate a bag to first responders for each bag ordered.
Local affiliates of Servpro, a cleanup and restoration service, offered to help sponsor the program, and other businesses have inquired about helping out, Van Hersett said.
Cornzapoppin has long donated popcorn for various causes, Van Hersett said, including for after-prom parties (in the pre-COVID era) and as prizes in charity silent auctions.
While at press time the first-responder program was set to expire May 8, it's likely to continue, Van Hersett said.
Like most businesses, Cornzapoppin has taken a hit from the pandemic, but Van Hersett said he's been heartened by his continued customer support.
"It's been absolutely amazing to hear the outpouring of people who say, 'We want you to thrive, we want you to do well, we want to spend our money with you," he said. "It's been nothing short of remarkable."
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