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Delaware beach staple Fisher’s Popcorn eyes expansion

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Fisher's Popcorn Rehoboth Beach Delaware Frankford

Fisher’s Popcorn, a Delaware beach staple, is planning a nearly $5 million expansion to accommodate its wholesale business. | PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHANIE BADER / FLICKR

FRANKFORD – Fisher’s Popcorn, a fourth-generation, family-run small business at Delaware’s beaches, is planning a nearly $5 million expansion that will help it place its product in stores around the country.

A generational staple of Delaware boardwalks, Fisher’s Popcorn is known for its signature caramel popcorn, but it also makes unique flavors like Old Bay-seasoned caramel, caramel with white cheddar, and aged sharp white cheddar.

The company dates back to 1937 when the first stand opened on the Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland. In the 1980s, a granddaughter of founder Everett Fisher brought the sweet treat to the First State, opening a store in Fenwick Island. That branch has since added stores in Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach, and today they operate independently from the Ocean City original.

As the company has grown, it has also added wholesale operations by selling its iconic buckets of popcorn at 2,000 grocery stores nationwide, including major brands like Giant, Food Lion and Weis Markets. Fisher’s currently makes all of its popcorn from the same retail locations that it has in Fenwick and Rehoboth though, forcing it to begin looking at an expansion.

It now reportedly is planning on acquiring a 17-acre property off Route 20 in the in Frankford-Roxana corridor, where it would build a manufacturing, packaging and distribution operation. The total project investment is estimated at $4.85 million. The new nearly 10,000-square-foot production facility is expected to create 20 new full-time jobs over the next three years.

Assisting the company in its expansion were Bill Pfaff, economic development director for Sussex County, and the state’s public-private economic development organization, the Delaware Prosperity Partnership.

“Fisher’s Popcorn has been a part of the Delaware beach experience and the Sussex County business community for 40 years, and we’re glad the company has chosen to expand here for its next phase of growth,” Gov. John Carney said in statement. “Delaware is a great place for manufacturing. This new facility will enable Fisher’s Popcorn to better serve its existing customers and grow its production and wholesale operations.”

Russell Hall Fisher's Popcorn

Russell Hall, vice president of Fisher’s Popcorn and a great-grandson of its founder, talks about their expansion plans during the April 24 Council on Development Finance meeting. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

To support the hiring and construction, the state’s job investment board, the Council on Development Finance (CDF), approved on Monday a $60,000 job performance grant and a $140,500 capital expenditure grant from the taxpayer-backed Strategic Fund.

“We’re still going to make popcorn in the same way we always have in small batches, just on a larger scale,” Russell Hall, vice president of Fisher’s Popcorn, told the CDF members. “It also gives us an FDA-approved manufacturing space, which increases the types of customers we’re allowed to serve.”

That larger scale includes new packaging machines that could do 30 to 35 bags a minute versus its current eight bag capability. They hope to break ground within a week and open the new facility in about a year, giving them about five times more production space, Hall said.

Already in stores in California, Florida and Washington state, Hall said the company aims to add more markets – they will be pitching in New York soon.

“We want to bring a taste of Delaware to the rest of the country,” he said. “Branching out for the brand is going to help us expand faster and create more jobs sooner; it’s a really exciting time for us and my family.”

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