Making It: Continuing the Legacy with Humphrey Popcorn
MAKERS: Joanne Lynch, Mike Prokop, Susan Prokop
BUSINESS: Humphrey Popcorn Company
CENTURY-LONG TRADITION: It was 1893 when Dudley Sherman Humphrey opened his first popcorn stand in Cleveland’s Public Square.
“There were many vendors in Cleveland who were popping popcorn,” said Susan Prokop, who does marketing for the Humphrey Popcorn Company. “Dudley was very much an entrepreneur, and had loved his grandmother’s popcorn. He wanted to figure out a way to put that into a business.”
Dudley decided to set up his own popcorn stand, and along the way, developed a new type of popcorn popper.
“The popcorn came first, and then it was like, what can we do with the popcorn to make other products,” Prokop said.
That formed into the idea to make popcorn balls, a treat that’s still made with the very same recipe today.
A CLEVELAND LANDMARK: When Euclid Beach Park opened in 1895, Humphrey sold his popcorn to the masses of people who spent their summer days there on the shores of Lake Erie. As the turn of the century approached, the park fell into financial trouble and the Humphrey family decided to take over management and save the park in 1901. Thanks to many additions from the Humphreys, Euclid Beach again gained momentum and continued to be a success up until the 1960s, when population declined and financial stress led to the park’s closure in September of 1969.
A NEW ERA: The Humphrey family continued to make the popcorn products in Northeast Ohio long after the park closed. Susan had always loved the popcorn balls, and when she went with a classmate to purchase some for a class reunion she learned from the Humphrey family that they were looking to sell the business. It wasn’t a hard decision for her, her husband, Mike, and his sister, Joanne Lynch, to purchase the business in 2011 and continue the legacy in Cleveland.
BRIDGING THE PAST AND PRESENT: The Humphrey Company now has a new storefront that recently opened on 185th Street in the Collinwood area of Cleveland, just minutes away from the land where Euclid Beach Park was once located.
“I think part of coming back into the community, the closeness to Euclid Beach, it’s just a solid foundation,” said Mike Prokop of the new location next to the historic La Salle Theater.
Their hope is to bring back memories for those who remember going to the park, but to also spark interest in a new generation.
“We’re trying to go forward in other directions, to bring new people in,” Lynch explains. “We’re finding that a lot of people are saying, ‘my grandparents came, or my parents came,’ so they’re interested in that because they’ve heard stories from family members. So we’re trying to bring the past and the future together.”