Construction delays opening of Gary Poppins store

Jesse Abrams-Morely

Northwestern students hungry for gourmet popcorn will have to wait a little while longer.

Gary Poppins, the popcorn shop that originally had been set to open this August in downtown Evanston, now is scheduled to open Sept. 29.

Slow construction forced the delay, owner Gary Seltzer said last week. He had hoped to open his store by Wednesday, the first day of classes.

“We don’t want to open up until we’re ready to open,” Seltzer said. “Believe me, it’s costing me tons of money.”

Gary Poppins will occupy part of the space left open on the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue after Student Book Exchange departed in 2002.

The store will sell buttered, cheese and caramel popcorn, as well as kettle corn. Frozen custard, italian ice and roasted nuts also will be available. Seltzer promises his products will be “awesome.”

Dick Peach, president of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, praised Seltzer and said he was excited about the popcorn store’s opening.

“He’s going to be a real asset to the downtown area,” Peach said.

But just getting his new store approved was a bit of a challenge for Seltzer.

In March, Evanston City Council rejected a plan to bring a Subway restaurant to the Sherman location. Aldermen expressed concern that a store selling food would cause too much litter on the street.

Seltzer got approval for Gary Poppins by demonstrating that his store would mostly sell food in containers that could be taken home or given away as presents.

“(Trash) was an issue, but it became a non-issue,” Peach said.

Peach said Seltzer faced difficulties while trying to open his store in Evanston because the city’s zoning laws do not differentiate between a fast-food restaurant, such as Subway, and a take-home food store, such as Gary Poppins.

Fortunately for Seltzer, the aldermen did draw the distinction.

Though Seltzer’s store is new to Evanston, its owner has more than his share of experience with the city.

Seltzer’s family owned an Evanston bakery from 1922 to 1979.

As a youngster Seltzer used to deliver cakes from the bakery to fraternities and sororities on NU’s campus. He said he is looking forward to serving some of the same clientele in his role as owner of Gary Poppins.

The store will offer special deals to NU students, including half-price promotions.

But most of all, it will give students another reason to stay in Evanston instead of going to Chicago, Seltzer said. “You don’t have to go downtown anymore.”