BROOKFIELD – Fred Tyler has wanted to open a popcorn store in Brookfield for 20 years.
Tyler has owned several Brookfield businesses, including restaurants, bars, gas stations and real estate agencies, but he said the idea to branch out into popcorn came to him two decades ago.
“I was in a popcorn store in Oak Park and I just realized I would love to do this; this seems like a fun business,” Tyler said. “Each year I’d think a little more about it. Then three years ago, I bought some equipment. But was still afraid to pull the trigger.”
Tyler said the inspiration to finally cast aside his worries came while browsing the Internet earlier this year.
“I was watching Facebook and I saw people complaining that there was no ice cream store since Cock Robin closed down,” Tyler said.
Tyler said the ice cream business always had interested him, but some local colleagues warned him of several problems in opening an ice cream store.
“The drawback to ice cream is it is a short season in Chicago,” Tyler said.
As a result, Tyler’s new store, Zoo City Treats, offers popcorn, ice cream, candies and sodas.
He says he hopes the diversification of goods will mean he can keep the store, at 3748 Grand Blvd. in Brookfield, open for much of the year. Currently, he plans to remain open through December and assess whether to close in January and February as those dates get closer.
Upon entering the store, customers will find themselves awash in vibrant colors as bright and sweet as the candy behind the display case. Tyler said he wanted the store to be painted in colors that would make people feel good. He said he was inspired by a hotel room he and his wife stayed in that was painted bright yellow and green, which Tyler described as “lemon and lime.”
“I woke up every morning feeling really happy,” Tyler said.
To that lemon and lime, Tyler added orange to achieve a sherbet effect.
Tyler said he has received support from his family. He said he was content to open the store without any fanfare, but his family convinced him to host a grand opening party Sept. 1.
“It was pretty amazing,” Tyler said. “They pretty much planned the whole grand opening and said, ‘you’re having one.’ They even ordered the T-shirts and hats for everybody.”
When the day of the grand opening rolled around, the back of the store was filled with members of Tyler’s extended family, wearing shirts bearing the store’s logo on the front and the phrase ‘Please feed the animals’ on the back and volunteering to scoop ice cream, bag popcorn and pour soda.
The operation of the store continues to be partially a family affair. Tyler said his son designed the store’s orange ice cream cone logo. His daughter runs the store’s Facebook page, his son-in-law manages IT for him and his wife cashiers.
Although this is his first popcorn store, Tyler said he is applying the same business philosophy that he has over his career owning and operating businesses in Brookfield.
“I’ve been in business 41 years here and my mantra is ‘if you sell volume, you can make it,’” Tyler said. “It is good living here in the community if you give them quality for a fair price.”
As for how successful the store has been thus far, Tyler said business was excellent when he opened in mid-August through the beginning of September. He admitted that business has slowed recently, which he attributed to a combination of cooler weather and kids being back at school.
Nevertheless, Tyler said that the feedback from the community has been universally positive.
“I’m glad I did it,” Tyler said.