Gaylen's Gourmet Popcorn plans move to Madison

TYLER BACKUS of Gaylen's Gourmet Popcorn demonstrates how the kitchen staff load a caramel cooker in the business' commercial kitchen with popcorn to make caramel corn and other flavored popcorn. The full load of popcorn poured in the cooker can produce 30 pounds of caramel corn.

In recent days, the windows on the front of the building at 118 E. Center St. were decorated with popped popcorn kernel designs that foreshadow the intentions of the business owners who plan to make the Madison location a new home for Gaylen's Gourmet Popcorn.

Gaylen and Tyler Backus have talked since last winter about plans to move their popcorn- and confectionary-making operation from rural Wentworth to elsewhere in Lake County. The Backus family made a choice this spring to move into two Madison buildings at 118 and 120 E. Center St.

The father&son-led business started as Gaylen's Homegrown Popcorn years ago on Gaylen Backus' farm south of Wentworth. The operation grew from selling popcorn kernels to making caramel corn in a commercial kitchen on the farmstead to producing an entire roster of sweet and savory popcorn flavors. During the last 18 months, the Backuses decided to concentrate on making snacks and confections, so Gaylen Backus sold his farming and popcorn-growing operation to Aaron and Adam Leighton, Rutland-area farmers.

After the sale of the farm, the Backuses started looking for a new headquarters for Gaylen's Gourmet Popcorn. Tyler Backus said the commercial buildings on E. Center St. fit the bill for what the business required. The one-story building at 118 E. Center St. already had the necessary electrical infrastructure to power all of the kitchen devices needed to make commercial quantities of popcorn. In addition, the floor plan provided the necessary space to install the equipment for a commercial kitchen and set up a retail area for product displays and a sales counter.

"The floor plan in that building was just about completely wide open, and it checked all of the boxes for what we needed," Tyler Backus said. "It's a pretty good fit for us."

Gaylen Backus also needed enough kitchen space for producing two of his newer confectionary items -- frosted nuts and fudge. He started cooking up cinnamon-frosted peanuts, cashews and pecans as holiday treats a couple of years ago. Also during the 2019 holiday season, Gaylen started making fudge, which has grown into a popular line of flavors such as cherry bing, caramel chocolate peanut and peanut butter chocolate.

The Backuses plan to use the two-story building next door at 120 E. Center St. for their office. Tyler Backus said the business ships a large number of orders through the U.S. Postal Service, so a location across the street from the Madison Post Office offers a great deal of convenience.

The Backuses plan to spend much of this summer moving their commercial equipment into the Madison location. According to Tyler Backus, they would prefer to have the retail location open for business this fall, or if not possible, at the start of the holiday season.

"We're saying that we hope to be open at the new location for the Christmas season," Backus said.

Currently, the family is lining up construction contractors who can perform interior renovations that include installing new flooring and building a new showroom for the retail area.

"We'd like to offer a really fun addition to the town," Tyler Backus said. "Frankly, if someone wants to come into a shop to buy caramel corn and fudge, it should be an enjoyable experience."

According to Backus, the kitchen staff at Gaylen's Gourmet Popcorn started at the beginning of June making some of their summer flavors, such as strawberry lemonade and purple paragon (grape flavored) popcorn. He said their five most popular popcorn flavors are caramel, caramel-chocolate drizzle, ultimate combo, caramel-nut and caramel-cinnamon roll.