The force behind , owner Steven Kreh, granted a few extra hands access to his kitchen Wednesday, and the extra help filled his Haddon Avenue shop with fun.
But the familiar faces of Kreh's mother Alberta, and her twin sister Alice Weston—who often help out when the shop has large orders to fill—meshed with brand-new volunteers Wednesday morning.
Instead, Kreh welcomed a dozen visitors from Bridges Adult Medical Day Center in Willingboro to his old-fashioned popcorn kitchen.
Bridges helps both developmentally disabled adults and neurotypical seniors, by providing them with daily activities during business hours, when their primary caregivers may be working.
“We run programs all day long,” said Katie Kolanko, director of social services for Bridges. “The clients are great; the families are great.”
In her two years with Bridges, Kolanko has organized patient excursions as action-packed as Six Flags Great Adventure's Wild Safari Park.
Though Wednesday's outing was less adventurous than a jungle safari, Kolanko said it was the group's first experience learning the art of popping popcorn.
After donning hairnets and sanitary gloves, Bridges' visitors were invited behind the counter to meet the Cornado: a high-volume, rapid popcorn popper.
Kreh explained how the machine works to guests: for ordinary-flavored batches, Kreh implements butterfly kernels. But to make heavier-coated flavors—like his caramel, cola, or Wisconsin cheddar, popcorn blends—Kreh relies on a larger, heartier, mushroom-shaped kernel shipped in from Ohio.
“Steven’s great with people,” remarked Kreh's mother, Alberta, as she watched her son walk guests through the popcorn-making process.
The group was delighted with the shop's highlights: from the 100 flavors of popcorn for sale—including seasonal favorites, like cranberry, pumpkin pie, butter pecan—to the massive machinery, to the retro-inspired decor.
There’s scarcely a fixture in the store that doesn’t bear Kreh's personal touch.
“We do (custom-bagged party) favors, (we provide popcorn) samples for wedding planners, (install) popcorn bars at receptions,” Kreh said.
But on ' numerous list of services, Wednesday's visit from Bridges was the shop's first open-house kitchen event.
After a batch of freshly popped popcorn had cooled, Kreh dumped the kernels into a deep-tray steel table, where his guests scooped generous portions into plastic take-home bags.
Wearing ear-to-ear grins, each Bridges visitor took the time to thank Kreh for making the visit possible—and, of course, for the delicious free popcorn.
“Bridges is real nice,” said Willingboro resident Rodney Jackson, who is enrolled in the program. “They’re always taking us to stuff like this.”
Before waving their final goodbyes and boarding a Bridges van for home, Kreh's visitors browsed the storefront, ooh-ing and aah-ing over his unique popcorn blends, like barbecue, Maryland crab, mint chocolate, and the 'Chicago blend,' a combination of caramel and cheddar.
Kreh beamed and chatted with every member of the group in turn.
“Hands-on is more fun,” said Kreh, smiling at the day's success.