In 1934, a young entrepreneur by the name of John Baldwin opened a tiny confectionery on Merchant Street in downtown Decatur, Illinois. Mr. Baldwin was a type-printer by trade and ran his printing business in the basement of the same building occupied by his confectionery. He called his store “The Popcorn Shop,” for his main product was popcorn: a simple delicacy for a city recovering from the Great Depression.
The Popcorn Shop was successful from the very day it opened due to its delicious products that were made daily from scratch. The tempting aromas drifted through the doors and out into the streets, luring customers inside the shop.
Many Decatur residents still fondly recall buying popcorn from Del’s to take to the movies in the old Lincoln Theatre right across the street. Today, when visiting home and looking for that hometown connection, Del’s Popcorn Shop is on their list of places they must stop.
How Del came into the picture…
In 1945, Mr. Baldwin leased his thriving business to Del Barnett and his wife, Emily. Del and Emily carried on Mr. Baldwin’s tradition of superb service and quality products, and The Popcorn Shop continued to grow.
In 1946, Del and Emily eagerly purchased The Popcorn Shop. They changed the name to Del’s Popcorn Shop, which reflects the pride Del had in his business.
Upon their retirement in 1975, the Barnetts sold Del’s Popcorn Shop to Terry Tomlinson, a young Decatur businessman, who continued to employ Del’s brother, Bob Barnett.
Bob had been a loyal employee of Del’s Popcorn Shop for over forty years by then, and it was he who passed along the proprietary recipes and old-fashioned techniques used for making Del’s famous popcorn.
After only three years, Mr. Tomlinson sold Del’s Popcorn Shop to his cousin, Lou Ann Jacobs. Lou Ann owned the Decatur store through its 75th anniversary.
In 1980, Lou Ann expanded Del’s Popcorn Shop by opening a new location in downtown Springfield, IL, where it enjoyed immediate success.
In 1984, Lou Ann sold the Springfield store to her sister, Shellie Jacobs, who operated it in that locale until 1999. At that time, she and her husband, Kurt Kohlrus, purchased a historic building across the street at 213 South 6th Street, next door to Abraham Lincoln’s law office, relocating the store again. This address is still one of Del’s Popcorn Shop Springfield locations.
In 2002, Shellie’s brother, Mike Jacobs and his wife, Trudy, opened Del’s Express Popcorn in Mt. Zion, Illinois at 1555 West Main Street. This shop was located inside a convenience store and was a somewhat smaller version of the other stores. In August 2007, it was relocated to 100 West Debby Drive in Mt. Zion to accommodate the growth in the business clientele and product lines. It now offers the same full range of products found at the other stores and has changed its name to Del’s Popcorn Shop.
After 31 years in business, Lou Ann retired and sold the original shop to Kemper Wilcutt II and his wife, Jessica. By this point, Del’s Popcorn Shop had become an icon in Illinois, and a staple in Illinoisians’ childhoods.
In July 2012, to keep up with bustling sales in the Springfield market, Shellie and her son Logan Kohlrus further expanded the business to a second location in Parkway Pointe at 3013 Lindbergh Blvd.
Today, the historic architecture, the old-fashioned copper kettles, antiques, and collectibles displayed within, create an authentic old-time experience.