Lance Sovine and Doug Yeakey started E.C. Pops with two goals: help rebuild Old Ellicott City after the 2016 flood and bring gourmet popcorn to the area. But since opening in 2017, the two offer much more than snacks — they provide food, fun and a familial space.
“We’re an all inclusive, all welcoming, safe place for everyone,” said Sovine, 50, before running to attend to customers shopping.
With over 60 flavors of popcorn such as Old Bay, birthday cake, backyard bacon barbecue and a summer pie series; cookies and cream, chewy praline and more kinds of fudges; flavored sodas like dirt and grass; Maryland merchandise; and classic toys like Light Brites, people come to E.C. Pops for entertainment and leave feeling like family.
“It just has a really good vibe. They have all kinds of things that are special — I wouldn’t get anywhere else, because you wouldn’t find them in other places,” said Claire Bowen, of Columbia, who was visiting E.C. Pops for the first time per recommendation of her parents.
Though E.C. Pops has become a beloved Old Ellicott City business, Sovine and Yeakey, who have been together for 30 years in November, originally came to the area for a totally different reason than popcorn and entrepreneurship.
“I worked for Walmart for 35 years and my job transferred me down here. And Lance, my husband, also worked for Walmart and when we came down, I was over a large geographic area of the Mid Atlantic area, so he was not able to work in the stores, because he would’ve reported to me,” explained Yeakey, 54, who is originally from the Midwest.
The two thought popcorn would be perfect for people to enjoy walking around Old Ellicott City, so E.C. Pops opened, with its own kitchen on site at the first store on Main Street in April 2017. The business became so successful Yeakey was able to retire from Walmart and the two began expanding to other ventures, including a store selling Maryland themed souvenirs.
However a little over a year later, when the flood of June 2018 destroyed businesses in Ellicott City again, the couple lost everything. Without their kitchen, the two opened a location in Fells Point with everything but popcorn.
But their original location was not lost for good.
The post traumatic stress of the flood led the owners to move to their current site in November 2019 — just a few hundred feet from the Main Street location, on Old Columbia Pike. Months later, coronavirus caused the couple to shut its doors in March 2020.
When COVID-19 restrictions lifted, customers filled the store.
“I guess because people had been held up at home so long, they were chomping to get their popcorn,” Yeakey said.
With a popping eclectic playlist, customers walk into E.C. Pops singing along to the music and dancing from one section to the next checking out items, sampling popcorn and taking in the rainbow colored umbrellas and dollar bills adorning the ceiling.
“It’s like a mix of everything that you could ever want, in one,” said Bowen, 17, who bought fudge and Maryland swag for herself and soon-to-be college roommate.
Carissa Bloom, a regular at E.C. Pops, decided to bring a couple friends for their first visit.
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“It’s a place I can take my friends and know they’re going to have fun immediately,” Bloom, 30, said.
“I’ve always loved Old Ellicott City. I’m from Howard County, but this is like everything you love about Maryland all in one place,” said Bloom’s friend Jendayi Miller, 27. “If I need to give someone a gift, this is the first place I would think of.”
3709 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City, 410-988-5179, ecpops.com
723 S. Broadway, Baltimore, 410-750-7677