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More Than Popcorn: How Cole Market is Redefining Small Business Success

Variety gourmet popcorn from Cole Market line the wall on black shelves

Crafting Popcorn Perfection and Community Connection

A family-run business in picturesque Colorado Springs, Colorado, Cole Market is so welcoming, you’ll feel right at home the moment you enter. This is more than a typical popcorn and chocolate shop. It has become the local place for not only enjoying your favorite snacks, but as general manager, Hunter Hall shared, it’s also somewhere you’ll find connection.

Front Exterior view of building of cole market on a bright sunny day.

History of Cole Market

The Cole family, Tom, Cindy, Charis, and Jason, has an entrepreneurial spirit. In 2007, they first founded Cole Promo (now Cole Brands) as a promotional products company. Driven to impact and inspire their community through print and design, they offered services such as screen printing, embroidery, branding, and other promotional items. They saw this as not simply a business, it was a way to connect with the community. In 2015, Tom’s love of popcorn inspired him to expand into the realm of creating delicious, flavored popcorn and chocolate treats. Offering gourmet products for corporate gifting was a natural complement to the work of Cole Promo. Plus, by opening a storefront, it allowed them to build a relationship with the local area they love and serve. Now, Cole Market brings the highest quality of products while making an impact in the lives of their customers.

Variety Box of Cole Market popcorn bagged and labeled.

An Inside Look

Cole Market prides itself on its handcrafted, artisan processes. Everything is made fresh in-house. They trust Gold Medal for much of their equipment and supplies. For popcorn, their production facility includes a popper, three Karmel Kings, and two tumblers. (Browse Gold Medal’s Gourmet Popcorn Equipment) Plus, they also have two cotton candy machines.

Cole Market produces an impressive 65 flavors (including seasonal flavors)! In addition to traditional flavors like caramel and cheese, some of their favorites include piña colada, loaded potato, coconut curry, spicy dill, and everything bagel. Ski Run is one of Cole Market’s most popular signature flavors. It consists of sea salt and caramel with a chocolate and white chocolate drizzle. Offering both sweet and savory selections, there is great variety for customers to experience.

Cole Market offers six sizing options ranging from mini sizes up to a massive 110 cups. There’s something for everyone. Plus, they also sell popcorn tins, great for any party or occasion. If you can’t decide on flavors, they have Variety Boxes with six flavors of your choice. They make a great gift too!   

In addition to the storefront operation, Cole Market also has a corporate gifting program and online shop rounding out the company’s offerings. This strategic setup shows the depth and breadth of the overall business.

A white box of cole market truffles on a plate with decrations on top of them.

Building Lasting Relationships

Cole Market’s slogan is, “Your joy is our passion.” While each year in business has held sales increases of several percentage points, they measure success by more than just a dollar amount. Customer retention and word-of-mouth advertising are a foundation of the business. They go the extra mile to know and understand their consumers and meet their needs. Whether its Happy Hour special discounts for parents to pick up popcorn after school or creating custom gift packages for corporations, Cole Market’s goal is to share a positive experience with friends, family, churches, and community.

Some of the other ways they market the business include a strong social media presence. They use posts to introduce new flavors, promote holiday campaigns, announce special offers, and hold contests. They also have a presence at local community events, passing out free popcorn. In terms of additional marketing efforts, they partner with local TV stations to help publicize specials. For instance, in honor of KKTV 11 News’ anniversary, Cole Market produced a raspberry dark chocolate sea salt popcorn for a limited time. As part of that promotion, a portion of the proceeds was donated to The Salvation Army.

Well received by the community, Cole Market finds the greatest reward is seeing people eating and enjoying the products.

Yellow cole market gourmet popcorn on a silver baking platter.

Lessons Learned

Cole Market’s biggest challenge was enduring Covid. The pandemic impacted business significantly. At that time, they operated in multiple locations and had to close down one shop. Many tough decisions had to be made. Then they faced an uphill battle against supply chain difficulties and inflation. While it was not easy, it was a learning experience. The result has been streamlined operational processes. They intentionally focus on being efficient and run lean by hiring high-quality people. This allows them to provide the finest popcorn and chocolate products for the best possible value.

For future plans, Cole Market looks forward to coming up with more new flavor ideas and product offerings. Plus, they want to continue building partnerships with other businesses in the Colorado Springs area.

Hunter shared that connecting with Gold Medal as a supplier has only benefitted Cole Market, “It’s a true partnership. We really enjoy working with Gold Medal and our representative, Clay Tyra. They are always there to help us.”

While many shops focus solely on the product, Cole Market’s business model centers on caring for customers. They not only want to produce a superior popcorn and chocolate product, but they also want to build an environment that’s filled with mutually beneficial relationships. That sounds like a recipe for success for all!


If you’d like to build your own fun food business, get started today with Gold Medal!