Over the past decade, new businesses have taken root in Cincinnati and a new energy is emerging. But there was still something missing, and Kevin Tolan knew what it was. “[People’s Republic of Popcorn] is bringing popcorn back to its roots and provides sustenance to the customer with no guilt,” he explained.
The concept for this business was born in 2013 when Tolan was working as a Business Improvement District Director for the Fulton Mall Improvement Association in Brooklyn, New York. The Fulton Mall is the largest retail district in Brooklyn, and one of the largest in New York City at just over 2.5 million square feet.
“I had incredible contact with both independent, regional and national retailers during a time of great transformation in Downtown Brooklyn and the borough at large,” Tolan says, “I left Brooklyn in June of 2013 to move back to Cincinnati and plug into the incredible transformation that is happening here.” Tolan, a graduate of University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program, combined his love for business and his creative flair to found People’s Republic of Popcorn in the summer of 2015, an event-based concept throughout the Cincinnati region.
Much like the transformations of the cities Tolan has worked in and for, he saw a need for the concept of popcorn to transform as well. When most of us think of the classic snack, we think of a guilty pleasure smothered in butter and salt. Tolan set out to change that. “[Popcorn] has always been a family treat that we would snack on all the time,” he adds. “From that foundation, and a knack for being inventive in the kitchen, I found popcorn to be a health alternative to so many other snack foods out there.”
People’s Republic of Popcorn prides themselves on producing an organic product, using organic kernels, coconut oil, and “a myriad of spices that speak to the discerning palate,” he says. The current flavors include Sgt. Pepper Lemon Lime, Bees Knees, Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot and Salt & Peppa. These flavors are inspired not only by the rich history of eccentric Cincinnati food, but also by Tolan’s family history, which includes his grandmother who was born in India as the child of missionaries. “The love and experience of spice was introduced to me at a very, very young age,” he explains.
Tolan says the response has been quite positive. “[This has felt like] a seamless process thus far…very natural and affirming”, he says. There are many exciting things on the horizon for People’s Republic of Popcorn as they plan to add more flavors catered to the “adventurous, yet discerning” customer. While People’s Republic is still an event-based company at this time, they are in the process of looking at some retail opportunities within the upcoming year.
You can catch Tolan and People’s Republic of Popcorn at Artworks Ink Your Love Gala on Friday, November 20, as well as the Montgomery Under One Roof Holiday Shopping Event hosted by Cincy Chic on Friday, December 11. You can also like them on Facebook.