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Del’s Popcorn Shop: A Safe Franchise Investment 80 years running

When John Baldwin, a type printer by trade, opened his first popcorn shop in 1934, there’s little chance he realized just what a safe franchise investment his business would be for others almost 90 years later. There’s also a pretty good chance he wasn’t familiar with the phrase “popcorn franchise” at all.

Starting a new business in the middle of the decade-long Great Depression certainly had its risks, but while the stock market was on its way down, Baldwin saw an opportunity to build a fun, low-cost business with some extra-added, well, pop, I guess you could say.

Baldwin’s popcorn shop on Merchant Street in Decatur, Illinois, now widely known as Del’s Popcorn Shop, is a true franchise business success story. Del’s has thrived and persevered through 14 recessions since it opened, while at the same time helping build memories for thousands of customers who’ve stood in line for open-flame popcorn, hand-crafted fudge, and candies of all shapes and sizes.


When you come home from war, you need a job. That’s exactly what happened when Baldwin’s good friend Del Barnett stopped by the popcorn shop to share war stories after returning home from World War II.

To most, it may seem unlikely that Del looked at his friend’s new confectionery and thought, “I see a popcorn franchise in my future” or “this has candy store franchise opportunities written all over it!” However, there is a chance that a few fond magical childhood memories may have given him a little insight and peaked his curiosity.

About 10 years earlier, popcorn sales had taken off in a location that most take for granted today. The movie theater. As sound entered the movies in the 1930s, cinema equipment became more expensive. Theaters that could afford it adapted their business models and many introduced popcorn, sodas and candy in order to make their margins.

True, this soldier needed a job, and admittedly he probably didn’t say to himself, “this looks like a safe franchise investment,” but at Del’s Popcorn Shop, we like to give Del some well-deserved pops – uh, props – for having the vision to seek out the friend who owned a popcorn shop instead of the one who owned a dairy farm! That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

After learning from Baldwin that he could use some help running the business, and after showing up the next day to see the long lines for himself, Del went to work at The Popcorn Shop.

Customers continued to frequent the store and they brought lots of friends with them. It didn’t take Del long to realize his opportunity, and in 1945, a year in which our country experienced a post-World War II recession with staples like sugar and cooking oil still being rationed, Del leased the shop from Baldwin and renamed it Del’s Popcorn Shop. His brother, Bob, joined him in this new venture.


From the late 1940’s to the mid 1970’s, the United States experienced six economic recessions. From spending slow-downs following World War II and the Korean War, to the “Guns and Butter Recession” that ushered in the 70’s and oil embargos early in the same decade, our nation’s economy was quite the roller coaster.

Nonetheless, popcorn kept on popping. Lots of it and much to the delight of Del’s Popcorn Shop customers! This amazing shop, which by now had delighted so many popcorn fans and candy lovers in Central Illinois and beyond, was clearly showing signs that it would one day become a popcorn franchise.

It was in the mid 1970’s that Del’s Popcorn Shop first changed hands. Bob Barnett was responsible for sharing the original, proprietary recipes and traditional techniques with the new owners as the shop continued to be set up as the popcorn franchise and safe franchise investment that it is today.


Actually, it’s both, and we’ll get there. There’s more to this story, and this part involves Abraham Lincoln, also a popcorn franchise owner in his day. Let’s be real, Honest Abe knew a safe franchise opportunity when he saw one. Ok, we made that part up, though Abe is a part of our story. Lincoln was actually reported to play handball off the wall of Del’s Popcorn Shop. The Lincoln Law Office was right next door!

In 1978, Lou Ann Jacobs purchased the nostalgic popcorn and candy store, and in 1980 she opened a second Del’s Popcorn Shop in Abraham Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois. It was here that the idea to one day offer franchise owners the opportunity to own a Del’s Popcorn Shop first took root. Lou Ann opened a second shop in Springfield and was purchased by Shellie Jacobs in 1984.

So, is Del’s a popcorn franchise or a candy store franchise? It’s both really! Though the original shop offered more than just popcorn, it was after the move to Springfield that the shop started creating gift baskets and products which combined a variety of popcorn flavors with popular candies, traditional and new! Holiday and special occasion gift baskets, as well as baskets for corporate gifts are a big part of our success today!


Why is Del’s a safe franchise investment? Here are just a few reasons to consider this popcorn franchise, or candy store franchise opportunity.

Time-tested success for almost 90 years and through 14 recessions since the Great Depression shows just how much people love the brand and what we do.

Our stores are not as costly to open, requiring less up-front capital than many franchise systems. Our popcorn-popping, fudge-making, candy-loving team is dedicated to training and supporting franchise owners as they operate an amazing business that their community will love.

Del’s Popcorn Shop understands the opportunity afforded by the internet and manages the brand’s e-commerce website while allowing our popcorn franchise stores to share in territory sales.

Finally, Del’s Popcorn Shop can be seen as a safe franchise investment because we operate our business like a family, and nothing is more important to us than for our family members to be safe and secure! Contact us today. We’d love to share more about this franchise opportunity.

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