While Champaign-Urbana isn’t short on local sweet shops, popcorn and hand-dipped treats are another story. In business longer than you may think, I interviewed one of the co-owners of Cool Bliss Pop Bliss (CBPB) Popcorn Shop. We talked about the humble beginnings of CBPB, the treat they make bigger than everyone else, and the grand plans for CBPB in the future. While reading about CBPB, try not to get too distracted by their lovely looking chocolate treats.


Smile Politely: Can you introduce yourself to Smile Politely's readership? 

Isis Griffin: Hello, I’m Isis Griffin and I am co-owner of CBPB Popcorn Shop.

Cool Bliss Pop Bliss Popcorn Shop (CBPB) exterior with advertisements for caramel apples and holiday tins visible on the windows. Photo by Matthew Macomber.Photo by Matthew Macomber.

SP: What's the history of Cool Bliss Pop Bliss (CBPB) Popcorn Shop?

Griffin: Well, we started a little over ten years ago in Champaign. The only things on the menu at that time were kettle corn and shaved ice. We would park a trailer on Neil Street and sell to customers there before we moved into a store front later in the year. We were actually one of the first food trucks permitted to be in Champaign, and that’s a trend we were proud to have helped create in Central Illinois. Aside from us having food trucks, our store is the only popcorn treat shop in Champaign-Urbana. We also supply the University of Illinois with popcorn during their athletic games and concerts at the State Farm Center. We have shipped our popcorn all over the country and internationally too, so we have loyal customers all over the world. It’s been a long road to get to where we are, but we are extremely grateful.

SP: Within the past few years, your shop moved into its current location on Neil Street. Why the move?

Griffin: Being on the corner of Neil and Kirby is a great location because everyone at some point has to cross that intersection while they drive. The visibility is amazing for us, and it has helped our business grow.

SP: What's a typical day like for you?

Griffin: A typical day for us includes making sure we have plenty of fresh popcorn and treats as customers come in and also making sure orders are filled. We spend time greeting our customers and socializing with them. Our customers are like family to us, and it’s a happy atmosphere in CBPB.

Variety of popcorn shown on display, specifically caramel and cheese mixes. Photo by CBPB.Photo by CBPB.

SP: How do you decide what popcorn to offer in any given week?

Griffin: We offer 17 flavors of popcorn daily, and there is a wide range from sweet and savory, even different levels of spicy flavors, too.

SP: When did you start offering chocolate and caramel covered treats?

Griffin: We've always offered them. Caramel apples from the beginning, and we still hand-dip and hand-select every apple. We started offering treats in our store because we enjoyed chocolate and caramel treats, and we noticed a lack of homemade and locally run treat shops in Champaign-Urbana. So, we thought why not include delicious treats with our popcorn? We figured we couldn’t be the only ones who loved non-factory, old fashioned chocolate and caramel treats.

Chocolate-covered Twinkies, pretzels, and smores wrapped in plastic with ribbons on the CBPB counter. Photo by Matthew Macomber.Photo by Matthew Macomber.

SP: How do you experiment and come up with new treat concepts?

Griffin: Since we’re lovers of treats, anytime we’re out of town we make sure to see what other treats shops have to offer, and we debate on what could make the treats better and what we would do differently. We often have different ideas we try out in the kitchen for fun. Taste testing things we create is a great perk of having this job.

SP: What's your favorite snack to make?

Griffin: My favorite snack to make is our milk chocolate turtles because they are simple to make but taste so good. I love to see our customers’ reaction to them because they’re twice the size of the usual turtles that are sold in stores.

Size comparison of a CBPB turtle next to a quarter. The turtle chocolate treat is the size of roughly nine quarters organized in a three by three grid. Photo by CBPB.Photo by CBPB.

SP: Have you made any treats that turned out differently than expected?

Griffin: Usually, I’m not much of a white chocolate fan, but our white chocolate crunch popcorn is probably in my top three flavors of popcorn that we offer in the store. We make a special type of popcorn that the white chocolate coats; it’s truly a perfect treat that everyone enjoys.

SP: Are there any foods you're currently experimenting with and hope to sell someday soon?

Griffin: We do plan on selling old fashioned pralines soon. They’re a southern treat that we love, and it’s rare to find a store in Central Illinois — let alone the Midwest — that has them. Sometime this year they will be on our menu, and we’re really excited about it.

SP: I often see your food truck out in community events. What is your favorite memory from visiting with the community?

Griffin: Definitely the welcome we get every Fourth of July. It's our longest and most fun day. We love seeing so many families smile and happy from our shaved ice and popcorn and knowing for a few minutes we were able to brighten up someone’s day. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

SP: Has Cool Bliss Pop Bliss had the chance to collaborate with other local businesses?

Griffin: Recently we collaborated with Industrial Donuts, which is an awesome local donut shop. They made special donuts topped with our different flavors of popcorn, and that was such a cool experience.  With COVID-19 going on, it’s hard to sustain a local business, so the fact that we could work together and thrive from the collaboration was really amazing. 

Apples dipped in caramel where some are also covered with nuts, white chocolate, and milk chocolate. Photo by CBPB.Photo by CBPB.

SP: How has the pandemic affected the operation of CBPB?

Griffin: This pandemic has affected our hours of operation because we have had to scale back to being open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when we usually run six days a week. Luckily for us, our local customers in Central Illinois sustain us. The most important thing for us is being able to keep a family-like atmosphere, and I feel that, despite everything, we have been able to do that.

SP: How can the community buy your treats during the pandemic?

Griffin: Our current hours are Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. If you would like to make a special order during the week, just email us at cbpbpopcornshop@gmail.com or call us at 217-607-5397. Also, while our website is under construction, they can head to our business page on Facebook which has our menu and loads of pictures of our delicious popcorn and treats.

White and milk chocolate covered Oreos stacked high. Photo by CBPB.Photo by CBPB.

SP: What are your future plans for Cool Bliss Pop Bliss Popcorn Shop?

Griffin: The future plan for CBPB Popcorn Shop is for us to expand first regionally and then nationally. We want people all over the country to know that something special and fun originated in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. We just want to continue to make people happy, especially in trying times.

SP: Is there anything you want to share with the Champaign-Urbana community?

Griffin: Thank you all so much for the love. Word of mouth is the reason why we are still here. Everyone sharing, posting, and shipping our products to family and friends is why we’re still able to be open. There aren’t enough words to show how grateful and honored we are to have your love and support. It really means everything.

Cool Bliss Pop Bliss Popcorn Shop
1506 S. Neil St
Champaign
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Su noon to 5 p.m.

Top image by CBPB.