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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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In Marketplace

Jackie Chesser brings warmth and personality to her popcorn shop.

In Marketplace

Don't open a bag unless you're ready to eat the whole thing.

Step back in time with Shorewood's Goody Gourmets


Customers only need to stop in Shorewood's Goody Gourmets one time and the owner, Jackie Chesser, will remember you.

"It's true. I remember people very well. I always have. People stop in here from my third grade class and I remember their first and last names. They're pretty surprised," says Chesser.

Goody Gourmets, a specialty popcorn and chocolate shop at 4425 N. Oakland Ave., has an old-timey, small-town flavor, from the staff friendliness to the small size to the number of repeat customers.

We hung out for an hour on a recent Tuesday afternoon and witnessed a half-dozen or more sweet and salty sales. Who's buying all of this candy and corn?

"It's popular with people of all ages," says Chesser. "And we make ours with love."

Chesser was born and raised in the Milwaukee area. Her grandfather taught her how to cook at a young age – mostly Southern-style foods – and it wasn't until many years later that she realized she had a knack and passion for making flavored popcorn and chocolates.

Goody Gourmets opened in 2006, but it was a surprise venture. Chesser, who worked for 20 years as a finance professional at a large Milwaukee company, was looking at a nearby apartment for a friend when she spotted the space for lease.

"I loved my job, but I had been thinking about a new direction like catering," says Chesser.

However, after seeing the space and thinking more about opening her own business, she decided to try selling chocolates and popcorn instead. The business started out strictly online and wholesale, but people saw the Oakland Avenue address and stopped by looking for a retail shop.

Finally, Chesser decided it was time to open her shop to the public. She invested $30,000 of her family's savings and opened the shop as a walk-in store. The business has grown consistently and she now has four employees.

Goody Gourmets offers 16 different kinds of popcorn. The most popular flavors are the cheese and caramel mixed bags. Chesser likes to dabble into the unique, and has flavors like bacon, pizza, jalapeño and lemonade. All of the popcorn is popped in coconut oil, and hull-less is available for people with digestive issues.

The shop smells incredibly sweet and buttery, like the products, and Chesser says she only notices the smell when she first walks in every morning. She forgets she smells like chocolate and popcorn until she goes to the grocery store at the end of the day and someone comments on her aroma.

"I'm just lucky I make something all day that smells good," she says.

Holidays are extremely busy – as are Fridays when people stock up on popcorn for weekend movie watching. Chesser plans to take a vacation to hang out with her family April 1-6, and the shop will be closed during that time.

"People are stocking up like we're going to be closed for a year," she says, chuckling.

Is Chesser sick of eating popcorn yet?

"I'm not," she says. "But I have to switch it up. Right now, my favorite is the hull-less caramel and corn."

A variety of chocolate delicacies are also available including pecan mega rolls, cashew turtles, mini dipped pretzels, raspberry truffles, raisin clusters and more.

Occasionally, Chesser offers chocolate and "gummy" candy making classes for kids. She plans to offer more classes in the future.

As a big fan of music – particularly Phil Collins and Hall & Oates – Chesser usually has music playing in the shop.

"I love to dance in here. I don't get out a lot anymore because I'm busy with the business, so I have my fun wherever I can," she says. "And we have a lot of fun in here."

The small shop has light green walls and lots of natural light, but Chesser's friendliness, sincerity and incredibly sharp memory really make the place pop.

"This is a great location for us. It's a tight-knit community. It reminds me of the way the whole city used to be," she says.


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