WATERLOO — Jenny Bagestos kept hearing about downtown Waterloo’s changes from her husband, a city employee.

“He kept saying, ‘It’s growing down here — you need to check it out,’” Bagenstos said. “And every year, we’d vend at the Home Show, and every year I would say, ‘Look at this downtown.’”

Finally — after JSA showed her the perfect space inside the old Boardwalk Deli — she and her husband decided to open a new location of their Cedar Falls popcorn business, which opened in June 2013 in Waterloo.

Here’s What’s Poppin’ officially opened to the public Friday, though Bagenstos has seen a steady stream of customers since a soft opening two weeks ago. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and closed Sundays.

The store continues to serve the small-batch popcorn customers enjoy, but have now ventured into candy, truffles, shakes and malts, hotdogs and nachos.

It was the existing deli counter that motivated Bagenstos to venture into serving more types of food.

“We have this deli, we knew people would be like, ‘There’s no lunch options?’” Bagenstos said.

But she didn’t want to step on Sub City’s toes, part of her desire to not directly compete with other businesses within her store’s respective territories in Waterloo and Cedar Falls. It’s why the Waterloo store sells candy, for example, but the Cedar Falls one — next to Main Street Sweets — does not. It’s also why the Waterloo store only sells shakes and malts, not regular ice cream — which 2 Scoops sells a few streets away.

“That’s really important to me — if somebody else also has something, I didn’t want to do it,” Bagenstos said.

She’s still working out the kinks of all the new offerings, particularly the Vienna beef hotdogs.

“There’s just a lot to learn — how many hot dogs to put on — I hope people are patient with us on the food part. This is new to me,” Bagenstos said.

The store’s back wall has been painted blue and a tin ceiling-like tile was placed along the counter. A visual merchandiser, sent from Main Street Waterloo, was brought in to help Bagenstos arrange tables and shelving.

“It just really turned out nice,” Bagenstos said.

With the extra space — more than her Cedar Falls location — people can hang out and eat, and perhaps listen to live music, which Bagenstos hopes to add in the coming months.

She’s hopeful the downtown Waterloo location will work out better than a failed venture with Main Street Sweets inside Cedar Falls’ College Square Mall — and, during her soft opening these past couple of weeks, believes it will.

“I love the people of Waterloo,” Bagenstos said, noting she’s met sales goals every day since opening. “The (other) business people down here are so nice — we all support each other.”

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Staff Writer

Staff writer at The Courier 2005 (college intern), 2007-2012, 2015-present. Graduate of UNI 2006. Three-time Iowa APME award winner (investigative reporting 2008, lifestyle feature 2016, business feature 2018)

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