Welcome Weekend in Athens is generally never anything less than exhilarating and chaotic. This year, amidst the hundreds of first-year students experiencing life on campus for the first time, Mike Miletta, owner of Kernel Crunch’s Rockin Gourmet Popcorn, also made his way onto campus. As Miletta set up his popcorn truck among the other street vendors located on campus, he was very optimistic about his business.
“It took me about a month to get through the health approval, the code department and the fire department,” Miletta says. “I was down here a couple weekends over the summer, but you know there’s not a lot going on in the summer.”
Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Miletta worked as a corporate graphic designer for 20 years and sold gourmet popcorn at school functions in Youngstown. After realizing the corporate world was no longer the right place for him, Miletta left the industry and started his own gourmet popcorn brand.
Although he is not an Athens local, Miletta is confident that Athens is the perfect campus for his business. After discussing the abundance of street vendors unique to Athens with family friends and current Ohio University students, it was clear that Athens was the customer demographic he was looking for.
“I like the idea of an isolated university,” Miletta says. “The kids don’t go out to other cities to spend their money, they keep it right here.”
Acting as a one-man show, Miletta makes, sells and packages the popcorn entirely by himself.
As stated on Kernel Crunch’s website, the brand is proudly non-GMO and uses naturally raised Ohio seeds. However, it seems the most unique thing about the Kernel Crunch brand are the flavors of the popcorn. Flavors range from savory flavors such as three cheese pizza, classic yellow cheddar and dill pickle, to candied flavors such as classic caramel and cookies and cream.
“I like the variety in flavors,” Kelsey Boeing, a freshman photojournalism major, says. “It’s very different from anything on campus.”
Despite all of these peculiar flavors, puppy chow continues to be the best-seller on campus, much to the dismay of the dark chocolate, caramel, sea salt lovers. Miletta’s plan for the rest of the year is to be located outside of the Schoonover Center Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
“I’m steadily getting more sales,” Miletta says. “People are starting to recognize that I’m here, kids are spreading the word that they like the product and I’m also in the Jefferson marketplace.”