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story.lead_photo.caption Popcorn Buddha owner, Tanya DeMaria, straightens the different size bags of popcorn available at her retail store in Linn, Mo. The tasty concoctions are made in house with quality ingredients. Large batches of corn are popped and seasonings or coatings added and stored in plastic containers in view of the customers. Photo by Julie Smith

LINN, Mo. -- Linn's newest business wants to offer customers more than a simple bag of popcorn.

"It's about flavor enlightenment," said Tanya DeMaria, who owns Popcorn Buddha with her business partner and boyfriend, Craig Campeotto.

The pair opened the gourmet popcorn and fudge shop at 1218 E. Main St. in Linn Nov. 7, expanding from its original location in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, where DeMaria and Campeotto hail from. DeMaria is operating the Linn shop with a staff of eight.

Popcorn Buddha discovered its new location out of convenience - the area provides the canvas for Popcorn Buddha's 85 flavors available every day.

"We have a local farmer here who grows our corn for us. So it made a whole lot of sense for us to open up a store here," DeMaria said. "Craig had come out here to Missouri several times, and I came out with him last winter. The building that we are in had a "for sale' sign on it. ... It was kind of one of those "in the right place at the right time' moments."

While the Osage County shop is a few miles from Jefferson City's heavier retail traffic, Popcorn Buddha's owners aren't concerned about the setting.

"We have found that once people find us they make the trip to come and see us. We're that unique. It's a total experiential buying experience. When you come in, you watch us make it; you smell whatever it is that we're cooking at the time, and we encourage you to taste it before you buy it," DeMaria said. "A lot of things that we do when we're making popcorn are very meditative. The whole process of making popcorn is very meditative, and it's all repetitive movements."

The seed for Popcorn Buddha, originally opened in 2011, was planted when both of its owners were unemployed and Campeotto watched a TV show about another gourmet popcorn shop, whose owners ended up helping him get his started.

"The way he tells it, he was lying on the couch eating gummy bears - because he's a candy fanatic," DeMaria laughed. "We purchased 50 base recipes from that company."

Popcorn Buddha has since restructured its own recipes - more than 150 of them, including such favorites as Phillie cheesesteak, chili cheese dog and Falafel - to account for new cooking machinery.

The Linn shop sells popcorn by the bag in quantities from 3 cups to 275 cups.

"You can bring the whole family in and everybody get their own flavor of popcorn, their own bag, for $1.75. You do that and you rent a Redbox, and you've got your family night," DeMaria said. "It makes awesome Christmas gifts."

Popcorn Buddha also sells personalized gifts, wedding favors and wedding popcorn buffets.

The Linn store is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Popcorn Buddha also takes orders to ship by phone at 573-897-1003 and online at popcornbuddhausa.com.

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