How Wells Park became a vortex of wholesale popcorn

How Wells Park became a vortex of wholesale popcorn

Mitchell Buffett is part of the third generation to help run the family business, which also includes candy and wholesale concession equipment. (Photo: Peter Rice)

Wells Park, it turns out, is home to a bit of a popcorn and concession empire that’s connected to a candy store generations of New Mexicans have relied on to satisfy cravings for sweet treats.

Situated along the rail spur at Seventh, The Popcorn Cannery has been serving up delicious varieties of flavored popcorn since 1981. But the seeds of the business were planted in 1956 when George Buffett launched Buffett’s Candies at the corner of Lomas and Louisiana.

Soon after graduating from college, Buffett purchased snow cone and cotton candy makers, and he began selling concessions at fairs and festivals. Soon, he added a popcorn machine, too.

Armed with a tasty recipe for caramel corn, Buffet quickly built a fan base for his popcorn, and when he opened his candy store, he began offering it and other flavors to customers. He also began producing his popcorn in bulk, selling the excess amount to other concession operators at wholesale.

All that popcorn, however, posed a problem – one that Wells Park was in a position to solve.

“Popcorn itself is really bulky,” said Patty Buffett, George’s daughter, who still works in the business. “It takes up a lot of room, and he ended up having space constraints as things grew.”

That inspired the family to launch B & H Wholesale, which today still sells concession equipment and supplies from its building on Eighth Street just south of the rail spur. When the building next door went up for sale in 1981, Buffett purchased it and launched the Popcorn Cannery.

Today, that business is run by Mitchell Buffett, George’s grandson. Though walk-in customers are welcome, much of the Cannery’s business is done on the wholesale market, with its products ending up in an array of grocery and convenience stores across the state, as well as the original Buffet’s location on Lomas.

This wholesale approach helped the Popcorn Cannery through the worst of the pandemic, too.

“It’s definitely taken some adjustment. Even though we don’t have a lot of retail sales, we do have some, and with retail stores being shut down for a long period of time, that was difficult,” Patty Buffett said. “The nice thing was being in grocery stores. The grocery stores were quite busy, so that worked in our favor.”

In another sign of the times, they have had trouble finding help lately to meet ramping-up demand.

“Business is picking up now. With stadiums opening and more events happening, that means more concession stands are up and running,” Patty Buffett said. “It’s been very difficult to find labor.”

The Buffett’s have also launched a new brand called Southwest Popcorn and Candy Company, which offers top-selling popcorn flavors to retailers in single-serve bags.

The store on Seventh is open to the public, whether you want to buy it by the bag or the case.

“We would love to introduce folks to our products, so by all means, please come in and visit us,” Patty Buffett said. “We enjoy our customers, and would love to have more.”

 

A version of this story originally appeared in Downtown Albuquerque News.