Bazis spent 2011 planning a launch, sourcing ingredients and perfecting his recipes. His kettle corn was renamed Sweet Butter Crunch, and savory flavors were added as well, including White Cheddar and Horseradish and Maryland Crab Feast. Most importantly, he christened the business -- and himself -- CrunchDaddy.
At the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1 of this year, he threw the switch on his website and received his first order just a few hours later.
Business was slow but steady for the first few months, with five to 10 orders coming in each week. Then in April he garnered his first mention on the local HowChow food blog and orders shot up to 50 per week.
By then he was operating out of rented commercial space in Columbia, mixing 4-gallon batches at a time (by hand!) in his 30-quart mixing bowls -- the largest he could find at Restaurant Depot. Friends and family pitched in at night and on weekends to create and bag the orders. For orders placed within Howard County, Bazis delivered them free.
“Let me tell you, with my GPS I’ve gotten to know every inch of Howard County very, very well,” he laughs.
Bazis began getting repeat business and in June, looking for more exposure, signed up as a vendor at Ride Across Maryland, an annual motorcycle ride that raised more than $2 million during its first 10 years for breast cancer research and Komen for a Cure in Maryland.
During the event he met WJZ television personality Dick Gelfman, a longtime Howard County resident, who has become one of Bazis’ biggest fans.
“He’s an entrepreneur who is going about it the right way, and he has a great product with really unique flavors,” says Gelfman, who claims Horseradish Cheddar as his favorite flavor. “We’re not talking Cracker Jacks here. His popcorn is so delicious, you can’t just eat one or two pieces.”
Bazis says he has been overwhelmed by the positive comments he’s received on Facebook and Twitter.
“People have been so supportive and enthusiastic. Even though it’s a lot of hard work, reading their comments makes it a lot easier,” says Bazis, who will begin stocking select varieties at David’s Natural Market in Columbia, Gambrills and Bel Air this fall.
So what’s next for CrunchDaddy? Bazis continues to experiment with wasabi, but hasn’t been able to find a way around the bitterness that can come through. Maybe a buffalo cheese is in the cards as well. And he’s been so successful so far, a larger commercial workspace is his next endeavor.
“With CrunchDaddy, I really want to make food that’s worth talking about, something that you not only want to give as a gift, but that you want to buy as a treat for yourself,” he says.
Pyles, of PopcornFace.com, who says his favorite flavor is Honey & Cinnamon Crunch, says Bazis has already accomplished that and much more.
“I eat so much popcorn to sample and review that sometimes I end up eating it for breakfast,” he says. “I can tell you, he makes a great popcorn.”
Hungry for popcorn with a twist?
CrunchDaddy flavors include:
Maple & Bacon Crunch
Sesame & Ginger Crunch
Honey & Cinnamon Crunch
Caramel & Peanut Crunch
White Cheddar & Horseradish Crunch
Peanut Butter Crunch
Chocolate & Peanut Butter Crunch
Sweet Butter Crunch
Movie Night Crunch
Simply Cinnamon Crunch
Peanut Butter & Jelly Crunch
Maryland Crab Feast Crunch
Bombay Market Crunch
Popcorn prices range from $4.95 for a half-gallon of Movie Night Crunch to $26.95 for a gallon of Maple & Bacon Crunch. Regular shipping starts at $5 and orders in Howard County are delivered for free -- usually by CrunchDaddy himself.