Six years ago, Mark Schmidt received a most unexpected call. The popcorn machine that fueled his first car purchase at age 15 was not only still popping, but up for sale 39 years later. His father found the 1967 Whiz Bang Gold Medal popcorn machine in an engine shed at a farm sale, and it was still on its original cabinet that Mark’s dad built to sell the popcorn.
“I told him I didn’t care how much it cost; just buy it! That thing was amazing,” Mark said. He noted he would pop 100 lbs. a weekend at events around town for $.15 or $.25 for a large bag.
“As kids, we thought we hit the jackpot. That’s where I first learned about entrepreneurship. It’s a pretty cool understanding to know what you want to do with your life at such a young age,” Mark remembered.
After buying his car, Mark sold the machine to his brother, Tim and sister Janice who ran it for a few years before they sold it to another family who had a mobile concession stand.
Later after the Schmidt family found the machine again, they brought it to their cabin and eventually their business, AMEK Custom Builders.“For a while, popcorn would be our main food group at the cabin. When my daughter was six months old, she would try to rip the bowl out of our hands. We have a long history with good popcorn from that machine and we are meticulous about real popcorn,” Paul Schmidt, Mark’s son, said. “Now, we pop it about three times a week at the office. Our customers love the aroma, our stories, and reminiscing about it. They appreciate our efforts to restore it.”
The family still gleefully lists popcorn at the top of the food pyramid and takes requests from Mark’s five children and 18 grandchildren. Thankfully, though, they know the Whiz Bang will keep popping for generations to come.