HARDWARE STORES

At Johnsons, the popcorn is always free

A Maple Valley, Wash., store builds customer relationships by the bag full.

BY Ken Clark

The tradition of free popcorn for customers is alive and well in Maple Valley, Wash., where Johnsons Home and Garden emphasizes a customer-friendly shopping environment. There’s free coffee, too.

According to Abby Deskins, the store’s social media and marketing associate, it’s all part of a plan to give back and fit in. Free popcorn is just the beginning.

“We are community focused and always want to help out in any way we can,” said Deskins. “It’s important for us to give back to the community. We have held multiple donation drives at our store, been sponsors for local businesses and organizations, been involved in many community events, and have even provided popcorn to elementary schools.”

Free popcorn is an important symbol and a longstanding tradition at the (almost) 50-year-old store.

Johnsons Home & Garden

“In fact,” she says, “we are called the ‘popcorn store’ to many of our regulars. We clean our popcorn machine every night and any of the remaining popcorn goes home to one of our employees who then feeds it to her chickens. No popcorn goes to waste.”

The store, affiliated with the Do it Best co-op, adds to its friendly shopping environment with a fish pond in the greenhouse, where kids can sometimes feed the fish. (“Kids absolutely love it,” she says.) For adults, cooking and grilling classes tackle a variety of recipes.

Community concern extends to the environment, she says. “We have reusable shopping bags to purchase and a recycling program all year round,” Deskins said. “We are a valuable resource for people to recycle their household batteries, CFL bulbs, and even drop off your old American flag to be retired by a local scout unit.”

According to Deskins’ analysis, the bonds with the community are strong. Consider this: high school students on prom night are reported to have visited the store for some of the free popcorn.

“I believe the best thing about our store is that we are loved by all ages,” she said.

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A recent article in HBSDealer reported on regulations that forced a California dealer to abandon his popcorn program. Read the article here. Does your store offer free popcorn? Write us at [email protected]

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