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20 YEARS OF BOOMING, POPPING BUSINESS

Twenty years ago, Donald O. Johnson and Dale Kehl were looking for a business they could run together where their children could work and earn a little money.

They stumbled into a Karmel-korn Shoppe franchise opportunity and recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of their business by rolling back prices to those of 20 years ago.Johnson, who is the managing partner of the Karmelkorn franchise, said the Karmelkorn people wanted to put an outlet in the Valley Fair Mall when it opened in July 1970. Johnson and Kehl learned of it and after talking to mall officials liked the idea, figuring it was just the business they wanted.

It was the first Karmelkorn franchise in Salt Lake Valley, and several have come and gone in the intervening years although there are many popcorn shops around. There are two Karmelkorn Shoppes in Ogden.

Starting with Karmelkorn, cheese corn, buttered popcorn, drinks and cotton candy, the shop opened just inside the main west entrance of the mall. In 1984 the duo spent $16,000 to remodel the business and install a new sign.

In the past few years, The duo has added nacho cheese, sour cream and onion, cinnamon, butter rum and cheese and bacon-flavored popcorn. Large metal or plastic containers filled with the flavored popcorn are the latest craze at Karmelkorn. They are used as gifts or prizes and are especially popular at Christmas.

Karmelkorn is owned by Dairy Queen International, which also owns Orange Julius. Johnson and Kehl pay the company a monthly royalty based upon the monthly net sales. Karmelkorn officials should be happy with the Valley Fair Mall operation because 1990 sales were 15 percent higher than 1989's and so far in the 1991 sales are 19 percent higher than a year ago.

The store pops more than 15,000 pounds of popcorn annually.

Johnson and Kehl put in $3,000 to get their business going and borrowed additional funds. That loan has long since been paid off, a tribute to the popularity of their product and their conservative way of doing business. Johnson said they put aside some of their money each year because they knew they were facing the 1984 remodeling.

In addition to their own children working in the shop, children of many neighbors have taken a turn at putting the cheese to the cheese corn. Johnson and Kehl give their youthful employees a few hours per week to earn some spending money but don't like the job to interfere with school or family life.

Johnson, who owns his own certified public accounting firm, spends at least two hours per day at the Karmelkorn Shoppe as the managing partner. Kehl is a commercial business and homebuilder in the West Valley area.