This week, Mark Laufenberg of Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn drops in (pops in?) to talk about their family-owned gourmet popcorn business, where they got the idea for the business, and about their delicious flavors you should experience this fall and winter.
Also, Main Street in Downtown West Bend has reopened! Be sure to stop by Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn and support all of the local businesses as we head into the holiday months.
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Fuzz Martin 0:00
Oh hello, Washington County. What's poppin? That's a little pun, because today I have a guest with who I'll be talking about popcorn. And if there's anything I enjoy more than telling a joke, it's explaining it. It just makes it so much funnier.
Fuzz Martin 0:23
This week, Mark Laufenberg of Laughing mountain Gourmet Popcorn in Downtown West Bend pops in to talk about their store, how they got started and what makes Laughing Mountain's popcorn stand apart from the rest.
Fuzz Martin 0:38
A little note, we recorded this episode a couple of days before the City of West Bend, made the announcement that they were opening downtown 10 days ahead of schedule. I had an inkling that they were going to do that, but I didn't want to jinx it. So there are a few points within the interview where we talked about the road being open soon. But I assure you, the road is open now. And it's glorious. And with that, here are 15 minutes on Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn with Mark Laufenberg on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.
Fuzz Martin 1:17
Mark, thanks for coming in today. Can you tell us a bit about Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn and how you got started in the popcorn business?
Mark Laufenberg 1:25
Oh, absolutely. This is actually our ninth year in business. And we started in 2015. We basically came about from a family recipe of caramel corn.
Fuzz Martin 1:35
Oh, really? Okay. Yeah. So it's just something you guys used to make. And then
Mark Laufenberg 1:39
Well, actually, my oldest son used to make it okay, he would make it in the house. And then he went off to college. He started making it at Christmas time and sending it to friends and professors and I thought, What am I doing here? And some friends had bought us some popcorn from a major competitor. It was stale by the time to get to us because they got it to us two days later. Okay. And I thought you know what, maybe this is something we should investigate.
Fuzz Martin 2:04
Great. And so Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn was born. Yeah. Kind of in the kitchen kind of in the kitchen. Perfect. What inspired your son to get started a popcorn just something he wanted to try? Or was there?
Mark Laufenberg 2:16
No, it was a family recipe handed down from his grandfather. Okay. And he was probably 13, 14 years old making it at home. And we all enjoyed it like anybody would and you know, it just kind of went from there.
Fuzz Martin 2:28
What were you doing career wise prior to starting Laughing Mountain
Mark Laufenberg 2:33
Before Laughing Mountain we had another service based business we okay, we own the residential cleaning service. Okay. And we did that for 27 years. Yeah. Wow.
Fuzz Martin 2:41
Okay. How's that transition going from that residential cleaning business into a, you know, a retail process kind of went from service to products? Right.
Mark Laufenberg 2:51
It was amazing. First of all, for three years, I continued to do both. I would work the service based business in the morning and then show up about two o'clock in the afternoon and and work this best part about it was we fought on very short amount of time that people like what we did Sure, you handle different than the service base?
Fuzz Martin 3:11
Yeah, definitely. It so goes from something you need to something you want, right? Absolutely. West Bend has obviously been going through some significant downtown Main Street reconstruction project work. While we're recording this. They've already laid the asphalt in it might actually be open sooner, we don't know, but might be open before this episode comes out? Or if not, it'll be shortly after. So that said, How has your business had to change during this reconstruction?
Mark Laufenberg 3:41
We had a lot of different ideas early on, we actually looked at buying a trailer, okay, going off site to certain events and things like that. That didn't pan out. But we offered free delivery locally, we offered curbside pickup up by the shelter up there. We also have an online presence. So we kind of tried to combat in three different ways.
Fuzz Martin 4:01
Are you guys participants in the farmers market as well as Yeah, okay. Yeah.
Mark Laufenberg 4:05
And that was one of the things we realized we had to do. We've done a lot more off site things this year.
Fuzz Martin 4:09
Sure. Definitely. So now that it's coming around, I guess, looking forward to some more foot traffic, right, but
Mark Laufenberg 4:16
some more foot traffic.
Fuzz Martin 4:19
All right. I love the name Laughing Mountain. Where does that name come from?
Mark Laufenberg 4:23
Well, it's it's kind of long and drawn out. Sort of Laughing Mountain is an interpretation of our German last name Laufenberg. Oh, okay. So when we met with our first digital media guy, he was like, yeah, that's, that's great. We liked the name. Technically doesn't mean that. We're like, What do you mean? He goes, Well, running hills running mum. We're like, you know what? Laughing Mountain sounds good. We're gonna stay.
Fuzz Martin 4:46
Yeah, that sounds good. Yes, exactly. So Laufenberg. All right, I get where that goes. I have limited Babel and high school education in German so I can I can put that together. Save all makes sense now. Yeah. What sets Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn apart from other gourmet popcorn. So what makes it special?
Mark Laufenberg 5:08
What makes us special is in popcorn. You can do things two different ways you can make things or you can use predetermined recipes. While we do use some predetermined recipes, we make a lot of special products. One of the most popular things we sell in the store it's called Matterhorn mudslide, and it's like puppy shower or muddy bodies. Well, that's something my wife came up with. And she comes up with some of the greatest ideas at three in the morning.
Fuzz Martin 5:35
Honey, write this down. Yeah, the do you go to, like flavor conferences or other like popcorn, popcorn con or anything like that?
Mark Laufenberg 5:44
We've been to a couple of gold metal things. Okay. You don't get a lot of creativity from that as far as flavors. So, I mean, we have a caramel apple cider, caramel apple cider. It's in the store right now. That came from a neighbor two doors out from us.
Fuzz Martin 6:01
Oh, wow. Okay, yeah. In terms of like sourcing the popcorn, how do you find what popcorn like the actual kernels and such to put into your recipes?
Mark Laufenberg 6:09
Over the years we we did change when we first started, we use two different kinds, but now we're currently using one. One style of popcorn for both our sweets and our savers.
Fuzz Martin 6:19
How many? I mean, how much time do you spend popping corn and actually hearing corn pop throughout your day is just kind of a constant? And
Mark Laufenberg 6:28
no, actually what we do is we try to take one day and pop all the corn that we need to pop that day. Okay, then it has to be turned into cheese corn or caramel corn or you know what we caught a lot of our popcorns with chocolate
Fuzz Martin 6:40
you mentioned like caramel, caramel apple, right. What other kind of seasonal flavors do you have at Laughing Mountain?
Mark Laufenberg 6:47
Well, we're coming up on the Christmas season. So one of the ones that's been very popular for us all these years has been frosted peppermint. And that's pretty much a white chocolate with vanilla sugar. Okay, we've done gingerbread cookie that's very popular. And we have one that's called the grinchy mix, which is a green apple and red cherry with some dehydrated marshmallows. And it's extremely popular as well.
Fuzz Martin 7:10
Yeah, that sounds wonderful. Do you have you said you have an online presence? Right? Can people buy your popcorn and ship it to family and such? Absolutely. Okay, very good. And obviously makes a great gift here at Epic. I know when we have new employees, we always go and buy popcorn. That's one of the things that they do and under desks.
Mark Laufenberg 7:27
You guys have been great. Oh, perfect. Great.
Fuzz Martin 7:29
Thank you. People love it. People love receiving popcorn, especially special flavors of popcorn, whether it's on the holidays, for you know, anniversaries, those kind of things. So makes a great gift. I'm selling this for you.
Mark Laufenberg 7:42
Alright, thank you. We could do some help out.
Fuzz Martin 7:46
What do you enjoy the most about owning owning a gourmet popcorn enterprise.
Mark Laufenberg 7:53
You know, it's the people, the people that come through the door, the special events that go on downtown, one of my favorite events is the car show. For eight years, it's been downtown here and right in front of our store. And you see people from all over. And it's just a great time. People are in good mood when they come into the store. And it just, it just makes you feel good that you know people like what you do.
Fuzz Martin 8:15
Well, if somebody wants to try some gourmet popcorn from Laughing Mountain if they want to buy a whole bunch and support a local business, what's the best way you know in terms of online social media, your store hours and such?
Mark Laufenberg 8:30
Well, we're open Tuesday through Saturday, okay, Tuesday through Friday from 11 to six Saturdays, currently tend to four best way to do something like that is come on in the store. Okay. My wife is very good at talking to people about what they need specifically. And everybody's got a little bit different, you know, thing that they're looking for doing it online. You know, if you know what you're looking for, and you can do that. That's great. But, you know, we liked the interaction as well.
Fuzz Martin 8:56
Sure. And where are you located in West Bend?
Mark Laufenberg 8:58
We're located at 148 North Main Street, okay to cross from Sal's Pizza.
Fuzz Martin 9:02
All right, right across from Sal's Pizza stop in Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn. Mark, I'm looking forward to the road being open for you, and for all the other businesses downtown. And I encourage everybody to go support all of those businesses as frequently and often as with as much as you can, and a long summer. I'm sure it has. So hope you have a great Christmas or fall into Christmas season. And I appreciate you coming on the show.
Mark Laufenberg 9:26
Thank you very much for having me.
Fuzz Martin 9:30
Thanks again to mark Laufenberg at Laughing Mountain Popcorn and downtown West Bend for joining me on this week's episode of Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz. Again, Downtown West Bend is now open. And I encourage you to shop downtown businesses like marks and all of the others who are getting things back up and running. And just like when we came out of the COVID lock downs. Please have patience with these businesses as they get themselves back up to full speed. If you have an idea for a guest please reach out you can eat Email me email@example.com. That's 15 spelled out with fuzz @gmail.com or go to the form at fuzz.cc/guest that's fuzz.cc/guest New episodes drop on Tuesdays. I appreciate you listening and I'll talk to you next week right here on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.