Nearly five decades of corn-popping fun have come and gone since Ozark Mountain Popcorn had its start in 1966

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Ozark Mountain Popcorn, a Springfield business dating back to 1966, began with a few staple flavors — like cinnamon, cheese and butter — but now makes nearly 40 different kinds. “We are just constantly continuing to do more,” says store clerk Danielle Wright.

SPRINGFIELD – The year was 1966 when Ozark Mountain Popcorn began popping up corn in a variety of sweet, savory, mouth-watering and mind-bending flavors for Springfield’s snack-hungry public. But despite it’s nearly 50 years in existence, some say the longtime business is hidden in plain sight.

“We get told all the time that this is a … secret,” says Danielle Wright, one of the shop’s clerks. “That they’ve lived in Springfield their whole life and they didn’t know we were here.” That said, some people must’ve spilled the beans a time or two. “We need to pop corn every day to keep up,” says Jack Keys, the shop’s popcorn chef. “I’ll make over 400 pounds of popcorn today.”

Behind the shop 

The shop was originally located in the Southern Hills Shopping Center, but moved to its current location in the Route 66 Food Shop (at the corner of Chestnut Expressway and Benton Avenue) in 1997 when the Swanson family purchased the business. “They had already had the convenience store and the auto shop,” says Danielle. “So they just made room for the popcorn company to come in here.”

Folks who’ve seen the shop may wonder how there’s enough room for all those operations, but Danielle is quick with an answer. “This building is actually much bigger than it looks,” she says. “We have a whole production area in … (the) back of the building where we pop the popcorn, coat it, and then they bring it up front to us and we package and distribute.”

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Popcorn chef Jack Keys prepares to make the day’s batch.

 The popcorn process

That production area is exactly where you’ll find Jack, who’s already hard at work. “Now I’m fixing to make butter (popcorn),” he says, scooping up just enough kernels — all locally sourced from Burney, Mo. — for the next batch. “Everything we use, we try to use local,” he says.