Gary Rolf, owner of Nebraska's Best Kettle Corn, shared his local business story with Seward Rotary Club
Seward Rotary Club welcomed Gary Rolf, owner of Nebraska’s Best Kettle Corn, to share his business story at the Club’s August 25 meeting. He was introduced by Rotarian Zane Francescato, the September program chair.
Aided by photos of his kettle corn operation, Rolf regaled the Seward Rotary about stories from his time as owner of Nebraska’s Best Kettle Corn. Rolf got his start in the kettle corn business after speaking with a corn farmer about how to get started in the business. “The farmer responded with a question, “have you bought any equipment yet?” to which I replied no” Rolf said. The farmer then made an offer to Rolf to purchase his kettle corn business which included eight business with distribution contracts and a trailer will all the necessary equipment to produce the tasty treat.
Rolf said that in addition to community gatherings, car shows, and fairs, his kettle corn can be purchased at eight businesses including truck stops, grocery stores, and gas stations – all of which are family owned. Rolf explained, “When I bought the business, I not only inherited the equipment to produce kettle corn, but I also inherited eight distribution locations and the name “Nebraska’s Best Kettle Corn.””
Although the company name was inherited, Rolf’s product has received high praise from customers from Seward to New York City. Rolf shared that one day out of the blue, he received a call from a guy “who had an office on Broadway and wanted ten bags of kettle corn to share with his coworkers.” Rolf said that the postage cost just about as much as the bags of kettle corn cost to make, a price that the customer paid without hesitation. Rolf added that his kettle corn is “truly the ultimate comfort food.”
Rolf shared that over the years, his business has adapted. One such adaptation was the purchase of an old-time popcorn wagon from a Kiwanis Club in Ohio, much like one that was used in downtown Seward for much of the early to mid-1900s. Rolf said that “It was a purchase that was made to add an old-timey twist to selling kettle corn, but is not one very practical for making kettle corn…it’s just too small.” Rolf shared that one batch of kettle corn from his current setup takes ten minutes to produce, making seven bags of popcorn.
Rolf commented that while it is not completely off the table, expansion of Nebraska’s Best Kettle Corn is currently put on hold due to other projects he is working on. One such project is the remodel of an over 100-year-old historic Seward home. The next time you are at a community gathering, look for Rolf’s kettle corn trailer and say “hi.” Not only will you be treated with a sweet and salty treat, but greeted by a friendly salesman and a story or two.