GRANITE FALLS, Minn. - America was built on the backs of small businesses. You just won't find many businesses as small as the one that stands in the middle of downtown Granite Falls.
"It wouldn't be Granite Falls without the popcorn stand," said Michelle Vavricka as she waited for the shades to rise on the stand's annual May 1st opening night. The daycare provider and her daughter Kaylia were first in line. "All the daycare kids have been jumping for joy for days," she added.
No one in Granite Falls is old enough to remember the exact year the stand went up, but sometime between the 'Roaring '20s' and the Great Depression the corner of 7th and Prentice started popping.
"It's been there as long as I can remember and that's a long time ago," laughed Jim Finnes, one of Granite Falls' senior citizens. As a boy Finnes remembers stopping at the popcorn stand with his family. "We only came to town on Saturday night and if we could find a nickel, down to the popcorn stand we'd go."
The original stand is long gone, but another more stylish model of similar size was built on the same space.
Kathy Barnall arrived for opening night with her three-and-a-half-year-old son Brady. "He says, 'Mom this is the night?' And I said, yes this is the night for popcorn."
Christina and Dustin Wangen showed up a few minutes later with two children in their arms dressed for bed. "We kind of forgot it opened today and then we remembered just as they got their pajamas on. We couldn't miss it."
Launched by brothers Jule and Fred Ernston, the popcorn stand changed hands a half-dozen times before the Kiwanis club stepped in. Last year the club raised nearly $10,000 selling popcorn and root beer. The stand is open seven nights a week through mid-September, from 7:30 to 3:30 p.m. It's staffed by Kiwanis volunteers.
Tuesday's opening night became an exercise in dodging raindrops.
"It's a lot more fun on a sunny night, but rain, shine or snow, they will come for popcorn," said Mike Elliott who drew the honors of opening the stand for the season.
So much of what we buy these days is sold from big box stores. Yet in downtown Granite Falls stands a survivor, weathering the storm on 36 square feet.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)