The Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections store, located on Pacific Avenue in the historic district of downtown Tacoma, is definitely one store you have to visit. The neighborhood is full of turn of the century renovated warehouses, many of which still capture the feel of the late 1800’s. The smell of freshly popped popcorn and just made chocolates will tempt you seven days of the week as soon as you enter the store. Just walk in, guaranteed, you will be back!
The store sells an assortment of ice cream, many different flavored popcorn, candies, chocolates, chocolate covered fruit, and various other treats. Pat Grimes, Co-owner with her sister Kathy Timmerman, originally from the Midwest, have been in business at their Tacoma store for six and half years.
Pat commented on the store, “Well, I love it. It has a very homey feel and people tell us that all the time. People tell us what a great smell it is. We [Pat and Kathy] don’t smell anything outside of popcorn now [they are immune to the smells in the store.] There’s always something new to see.” When asked what items Pat recommended in the store, Pat responded with a laugh, “Anything that we make. We make all chocolate and popcorn. We do special orders sometimes for a bride that wants popcorn in different colors. We can’t control things that are specific color hues, for example, if you wanted the color of “butter” on popcorn. That doesn’t happen very often. As long as they’re not too weird [colors].”
Pat explained how the Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections store is different than other stores, “Well, we are unique. There’s no other popcorn place in Tacoma or ice cream shop on Pacific [Avenue]. We have great service and we have good tasting products, and we make things people have never heard of. For example, “Big Foot” [which is a type of candy.] Pat would recommend this store to her family and friends, stating, “Oh, I do recommend to family and friends. There are not a whole lot of people that don’t like popcorn, chocolate, or ice cream so I don’t have to do a hard sell. I made caramel corn one night at 9 pm and people were trying to get in [the store].”
Kathy Timmerman, described customers’ expressions when they walk into the store, “When you walk in, people just start smiling because of what they see they have never seen anything like it before when we tell them the popcorn and chocolate is made here, they can’t believe it…And when they leave here, they’re smiling [in amazement] even more.” Kathy further explained what she thinks of the store, “Oh, it’s fun. If I had to put it in one word it’s just a fun store. I see people come in and say they haven’t seen this candy since they were a kid and didn’t know it was still around…or the corn on the cob to put in the microwave to pop they never heard of they’re always smiling.”
Kathy recommends the caramel popcorn, “It’s one that Pat had worked extremely hard to get the recipe perfect, just the way it should be. I just think she has the best popcorn around,” Kathy commented. When asked if she would recommend her family and friends to visit the store, she replied, “Oh yeah, definitely everyone wants to try a different flavor popcorn or the name of the popcorn. They want to know why the candy turtle is called a turtle. They just like some of the different names of candy because we named them ourselves,” Kathy explained. When asked what many people may not realize about the Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections store, Kathy replied, “Hmm…that if you’re a Girl Scout or Boy Scout if you want to earn a badge, make an appointment with me and they learn how to make candies and chocolates.”
Lorrie Douglas, a customer of the Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections for about a year, has been visiting the store more frequently within the past few months. When asked what Lorrie thought of the store, she replied, “Actually, I like it a lot. Both of the sisters are very friendly. It’s just really nice to go to. You’re always greeted with a smile. If they don’t have what you want, they’ll make it. It’s fun to go see the taffy, jelly beans, candies, you haven’t seen in awhile, the now and laters, and the chocolates and caramels and ice cream…Just a fun store to go to…Always greeted with a smile and good conversation.”
Lorrie explained her favorite items at the store, “I love the chipotle, it has a little kick to it, oh and it’s good, hard to stop when you start, stuffed potato popcorn, and the salt and vinegar popcorn. I like them all but that’s pretty much my favorites.” Discussing the best thing about the Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections store, Lorrie remarked, “Owners…Like I said, you’re always greeted with a smile, positive attitude, they’re right there to answer your questions, they don’t try and rush you out the store. The fact that you can go in and you’re actually appreciated for coming into the store. Just definitely the attitude, the positivity, good conversation, always greeted with a smile, they don’t force you to buy anything, genuinely nice people.”
When asked if she would recommend the store to her family and friends, Lorrie replied, “Oh yeah and I do all the time. As a matter of fact, I took some popcorn to work even though my co-workers were trying hard not to eat any and [they] ended up eating it all…And they call me cruel and unusual punishment (torturing them with candy) for bringing it…[Lorrie laughs]. They wanted to know where it [the store] was located, they thought it was online and I told them where it was and they look forward to getting some popcorn.” “Have you ever heard of the popcorn place in Chicago called Garrett’s? People compare [the store] to that place, which is a huge compliment. It says a lot and I recommend to go [to the store] because they will not be disappointed,” Lorrie added.
Jennifer Dow, a Tacoma resident and customer for the Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections store since the store opened. “It’s an awesome small business with a great theme…Owners who are really dedicated to their products and customers,” Jennifer stated. Jennifer recommends any of the different popcorn flavors, “We especially like the ones [popcorn flavors] you can’t find everywhere…love rajun Cajun and s’mores,” Jennifer commented.
Jennifer explained that the best part about the Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections store is that, the owners really know how to keep their customers happy. “They try new creative flavors, both popcorn and candy, and even stock some more of the unusual ice cream flavors. However, they still have the good old standbys to appeal to everyone. They do a great mail order service. They are absolutely consistent about quality and service.” Jennifer pointed out something most people may not know about the store, “They happily give you free samples of their popcorn flavors…So, if you’re not sure about 5-Start Thai or Tacoma Mix, give it a try before committing to a bag, but then you’ll commit to a bag. They also do a great mail order service, you can order from the web or call in, and they’ll work with you. They want to make sure you and the recipient are happy,” Jennifer stated.
Jennifer encourages everyone to come to the Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections store, “Just about anyone who likes popcorn, ice cream, or candy… needs a gift – a couple of bags of cheddar popcorn in a gift tote makes a great unusual hostess gift,” Jennifer commented. When asked if she would recommend her family and friends to the store, “I already have recommended the store! I send the website link around even to people who aren’t in the area. If I hear friends are heading to Tacoma for a tourist day, I make sure they know about it. We made up little bags of popcorn to use as party favors at my dad’s 80th birthday party and all the guests asked where it came from.” “Pat and Kathy are just plain nice people, and I feel good supporting their business,” Jennifer added.
The store even has a loyalty rewards program. For every $5 a customer spends in the store, they receive a punch, and 10 punches equates to $5 off the customer’s next purchase. The owners are always looking for feedback to improve their store, Kathy commented, “We like it when people come in and ask for a specific flavored popcorn and we don’t have it and they ask if it’s something we can make or love giving us suggestions of something they bought in Hawaii or the East Coast…And most of the time Pat will try re-creating a popcorn that they [the customer] tried 20 years ago….And knowing that we can, that’s even better. It makes them even happier, [to recreate the flavor] “this is exactly what I remember,”…And they just keep coming back.” Who wouldn’t want to come back to a store where they make you happy and laugh? Pat had commented, “Munchie makers extraordinaire that’s our byline which means we make munchies and we’re really good at it,” wouldn’t that make you laugh, too?
Go visit the Great Northwest Popcorn and Confections store. Try their gourmet flavored popcorn, every flavor imaginable. It’s okay to get tempted by their hand dipped chocolates, popcorn, and nostalgic candy. Savor the flavor, relive your childhood and make your childhood dream come true.
by Carly Calabrese, Tacoma.com staff reporter