Gary Gilliam’s first career was with the railroad until he retired due to a neck injury he acquired in early 2008. “It was an enjoyable profession,” Gilliam said. “I never dreamed that I’d be a railroad engineer, but I was very proud of it.” After retiring, he wanted to make some extra money. Gilliam wasn’t looking to get rich – just to have a little extra spending money for golf. He noticed the crowd that kettle corn attracted and has always had an interest in food. “I love kettle corn, so I thought that’d be a pretty good business to look into,” Gilliam said.
Gary opened Show Me Kettle Corn in April 2010. He first sold popcorn outside of Food for Less grocery store in Fenton, Mo. Eventually he began to work school picnics, neighborhood events, Elks Lodge benefits and car shows. He first started selling at the Webster Groves Farmers’ Market last August and it quickly became one of his favorite places to sell. “The farmers market is the neatest place I’ve sold popcorn . It’s new every week, and very enjoyable,” Gilliam said
Gilliam enjoys talking to people. He notices several regular customers who come by every week at the market. Gilliam also has strong family support. His brother-in-law and grandchildren often keep him company at the market and other events. “They help me at almost every event,” Gilliam said.
Gilliam uses his popcorn business to help others when he can. On occasion, he sells his products at his local Elks Lodge and donates the proceeds to the lodge for its scholarship fund. And when Gilliam sees a soldier in uniform, he gives them free popcorn. “(It’s) A small way of supporting our troops,” Gilliam said. That opportunity doesn’t come around as often as he’d like. “It’s as much fun giving it away as it is to sell it,” Gilliam said.
Gilliam doesn’t usually have events after the market season ends. He packs his equipment away at home. However, come Halloween, Gilliam takes out his equipment and makes popcorn to hand out to his neighborhood.
If you haven’t tried Show Me Kettle Corn yet, you’re missing one of the highlights of the Webster Groves Farmers Market!
- Article by Megan Favignano. Photos by Caitlin Zera.