Deanan Popcorn

Moved to Wylie
Kroger Stores that Stock Deanan in DFW

Resiliency has been a popular pandemic buzzword, and for good reason. As businesses have faced the unique challenges of the last two years, they’ve had to shift, pivot, and evolve to keep up with an unprecedented and constantly changing pandemic marketplace. Family-owned local business Deanan Gourmet Popcorn, a business that was built around in-person school fundraisers, knows a thing or two about being resilient after their business came to a screeching halt when schools closed in March of 2020. 

Getting Started

After retiring from the United States Air Force in 1979, Lt. Col. Dean Alexander and his wife, Nanella, were looking to start a family business that would allow them to work together and include their children. San Antonio residents themselves, they decided to purchase a gourmet popcorn franchise that was operating out of a mall in San Antonio. 

Over the next few years, they bought and sold several retail popcorn stores in the area. During this time, they were also connecting with their community and finding new customers – local businesses who wanted to purchase their personalized popcorn canisters to use as gifts for clients and associates.

Popcorn machine bagging individual packages of popcorn

Today, Deanan Gourmet Popcorn is probably best-known for providing popcorn for school fundraisers. But it wasn’t until 1987, eight years after they’d opened their first retail location, that the company worked with their first school. 

Before long, they had grown from fundraising at one school to more than 1,000 schools across Texas, making fundraising the biggest part of their business. While they still sold directly to businesses and maintained their wholesale and retail presence, most of the company’s energy went towards their quickly growing and very specific market of school fundraising.

Employee adding popcorn to flavor barrel

Moving to Wylie

In 2011, the family made the big move from San Antonio to Wylie. At this point, the second generation was running the business. Four out of the five children lived in the DFW area, so they knew they wanted the business to be closer to Dallas. They also liked that DFW was a better location for doing business throughout the United States, being centrally located and especially close to Oklahoma and Louisiana, states where they already had a strong customer base.

The family looked at several cities around Dallas. After seriously considering two other locations, Barbara A. Hodge, CEO & President of Deanan Gourmet Popcorn, says, “Neither city had the ‘how can we help you?’ attitude that Wylie does.”

“Wylie has turned out to be very supportive to our business.”
Barbara A. Hodge, CEO & President

Indeed, Wylie ended up embracing the company and supporting them through two expansions. Their first building was a modest 5,000 square feet. By 2016, they had outgrown that space, and added on enough square footage to more than double it. As 2019 rolled around, they found they needed to expand again - and more than doubled in size again when they built their current location, a two-story, 23,000 square foot building that houses their factory, shipping, and home offices. The factory is immaculate, the employees friendly, and the popcorn? Delicious.

When asked what the most popular flavor is, Barbara says, “Hands down, in every aspect of our business, our Texas Wildflower Vanilla is our top selling product. I always thought it would be caramel corn, since that’s such a well-loved, well-known product.”

{Side note: I’ve tried them all, and they’re all amazing – but there is something extra special about that Texas Wildflower Vanilla!}

machine stirring syrup

“Wylie has turned out to be very supportive to our business. The Chamber, the City Council, the Economic Development Corporation, and the building departments have all welcomed us, and sought to help us be successful.”

Speaking about the support they have received since moving to Wylie, Barbara says, “It’s not just the initial welcome and helpfulness that makes an impression.  When we expanded our building, the EDC provided some incentives that made a huge difference to us.”

of business came from school fundraisers

Their new location allowed them to scale their business, and the popularity of popcorn as a school fundraiser continued to grow.  

In fact, heading into 2020, 91% of Deanan Gourmet Popcorn’s business came from school fundraisers.

Enter the Pandemic

Even as the pandemic started to unfold, it was impossible to imagine the world-wide shutdown that would take place in March of 2020. As travel came to a halt and major sporting events were canceled, schools across the country also closed. 

“When schools shut down and all activities ground to a halt, our business dropped 91% overnight. Our very small retail and wholesale business was trying to support our entire staff,” says Barbara. “Immediately, five family members stopped taking a salary to preserve cash to pay our employees.”

employee sorting multicolored popcorn

During these uncertain months, many businesses closed up shop. Deanan Gourmet Popcorn, however, got creative.

Along with the five principals forfeiting their salary, the company looked at other ways to stay afloat. 

“Immediately, five family members stopped taking a salary to preserve cash to pay our employees.”
Barbara A. Hodge, CEO & President

“We immediately started looking for ways to diversify,” says Barbara. “We focused on the part of our business that could still operate – the wholesale business.  We already supplied products to HEB and Aldi.  One unexpected bonus is that, because everyone was doing business via Zoom, we were able to reach purchasing departments at large store chains that would have been much harder to get into pre-pandemic.  We had opportunities to get in front of QVC, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, and Dollar General.  We learned how to do business with companies that we would never have previously devoted the funds, nor the time, to pursue.  Expanding this side of our business has truly made our company operate more smoothly.”

Today, you can even find Deanan Gourmet Popcorn in over one hundred Kroger stores in the DFW area!

They also had some help from the Economic Development Corporation and the City of Wylie.

“Once COVID hit, the EDC and the City of Wylie reached out to us to see how they could help.”
Barbara A. Hodge, CEO & President

“Once COVID hit, the EDC and the City of Wylie reached out to us to see how they could help. They both sprang into action to make sure their most vulnerable businesses received aid.”

As schools came back online (and many of them were only online in the beginning), so did fundraisers. In 2020, the company started offering online fundraising for the first time.  

In some ways, the shutdown came with a silver lining for Deanan Gourmet Popcorn, who was able to adapt, quickly develop new business strategies, and go with the flow in an ever-changing marketplace and world. Because of Covid, they expanded their business in unexpected ways that have continued to grow.

When the five family members stopped taking a salary, they thought it might be for a few weeks, at most. Instead, it ended up being six months. While this was definitely not what they had envisioned, stopping their salaries as well as growing the other aspects of their business allowed them to retain all 34 of their employees.

They are a true example of resilience and the entrepreneurial spirit. 

Deanan Salsa N Cheddar Corn packaged and ready for shipping
Plans for the Future

Since Deanan Gourmet Popcorn came to Wylie in 2011, they’ve been through two business expansions and a global pandemic. They made a very quick and unexpected pivot from a thriving fundraising business to a primarily wholesale operation while the leadership worked for free. Today, they continue to grow their wholesale business while also getting back to their first love – school fundraising. 

I love that fundraising is still our core business because it's purposeful.  And I love working with my favorite people,” says Barbara. “I’m excited to get back to fundraising as the pandemic eases and I’m very excited to keep expanding our wholesale business. Business is fun and very challenging!”

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