At Smith Family Popcorn, giving is embedded in the company’s corporate philosophy. The roots of its charity work can be traced all the way back to owners Dan and Patrick Smith’s childhood.
The brothers credit their grandfather, retired oncologist Dr. Robert McIntire of Falmouth, for instilling in them a passion for philanthropy. “Pretty much by the time we hit 10 years old, he kind of stopped giving us Christmas gifts. He thought, ‘You have enough stuff,’” Dan recalls. “As long as I can remember, from then on, our Christmas gift was a letter and a donation to some charity in our name. When he first started it, he was finding all these different organizations that really gelled with our personalities.”
That generosity was passed onto Robert’s grandchildren who recently presented Heroes In Transition President Cyndy Jones and Executive Director Nicole Spencer with a $5,700 check.
“The way we think about it, is it’s us being a part of the community of Cape Cod rather than existing off of it,” says Patrick. “We really want to give back and be a part of our community and entrench ourselves in it.”
The donation to HIT represents a little more than a year’s worth of fundraising that is tied to Smith Family Popcorn’s operational model. At checkout, their customers are given the option of having a portion of the proceeds from the cost of their purchase go to one of two local charities chosen by Dan and Patrick.
Unlike some giving programs where customers are asked to make that donation out of their own pocket, Smith Family Popcorn has built that into their pricing structure. “We hate it when you go into a store and they ask you to donate to a charity. It feels not right and they make you feel guilty about it,” Dan says. “We don’t want our customers to feel that way so we decided we’re going to take it off the top, take a portion of our proceeds and donate to a charity.”
They involve customers by having them decide between one of two charities as a way to engage them in the process. It also raises awareness to local nonprofits like Heroes In Transition and the important work they’re doing in the community.
For Dan, whose foray into popcorn making started as a lark, it’s one of the rewards of his second career.
The roots of the company were formed when he and his wife Kim, a pediatric nurse, were living in Boston. The couple wanted to bring a unique gift to the many parties they were going to. They chose Dan’s homemade caramel popcorn.
Initially, it was a series of trial and error until “we finally got a bag that was edible and brought it to my buddy’s going away party,” Dan recalls. “Our friends went crazy for it.”
Word got out and they started making more. “We hit the age where we were going to Christmas parties, bridal showers, or engagement parties every weekend and we got sick of bringing a bottle of wine, bread, and cheese that everyone else was bringing,” Dan say. “We got this hare-brained idea and said, ‘Let’s try making caramel popcorn.’ It was a family tradition, and we’d make some of that and bring it to parties.”
That was in 2016, when Dan was still working as an architect. Over the course of the next two years, he steadily built up his popcorn side hustle, making batches for bridal showers, baby showers, and weddings out of the couple’s one-bedroom apartment in Coolidge Corner.
As more people tried the popcorn, they encouraged Dan to turn it into a full-time job. In 2018, he did. That’s when he and his wife relocated to the Cape — both grew up in Sandwich — and opened Smith Family Popcorn in Hyannis, with Patrick.
Its first two charities were causes close to their grandfather’s heart — the Community Health Center of Cape Cod, which Robert helped to start, and Heroes In Transition.
Robert’s introduction to HIT was through church; both he and Cyndy are parishioners at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Falmouth. “He became friends with her and he loved the whole idea of Heroes In Transition,” Dan says of his grandfather. “Even still, to this day, our Christmas gift [from him] is always a donation to Heroes In Transition. It’s so cool.”
As Smith Family Popcorn has expanded — it now has two additional locations, one in Mashpee Commons and another in Plymouth — Dan and Patrick have made a commitment to honoring their grandfather through their charitable giving. “He is a big part of why we’re doing this,” Dan says.
Since its inception, Smith Family Popcorn has raised nearly $32,000 for local charities in our region. “It’s awesome, but also humbling because we wouldn’t be able to do this if no one came in and bought our popcorn,” Dan says. “It makes you feel good that you can be in business, but you don’t have to be greedy. You can be charity-driven and philanthropic.”