Pop Goes the Entrepreneur

Small business owners of Crunch Time Popcorn have bagged a measure of success

It’s no wonder David and Kim Pinkney have been picked for a reality show about “underdogs” in American business. He survived the mean streets of Chicago. She made it out of rural New Mexico. As Kim says, “not many of the kids we grew up with got an education or are business owners.”

Today, they own Crunch Time Popcorn, with a storefront on K Street that’s half a block from Petco Park -- home to Padres, their biggest client.

After finding each other nine years ago on a dating Web site, the pair survived a couple tragedies to be where they are now. In 2003, their Descanso home was one of few that survived that year’s wildfires. And late last year, an F-18 military jet crashed in their neighborhood. The plane’s canopy landed on a neighbor’s roof, and glass sprinkled the garden Kim had planned to work in that day.

They’ve had a downtown San Diego Crunch Time store for seven years, and have been in the current spot for just a year. The Pinkneys sell popcorn to several downtown hotels (The Omni, Sheraton, Manchester Grand Hyatt, the Marriotts and the new Hilton Bayfront, to name a few). Christmas is a big selling time for cans of their trademark caramel corn. But David said 70 percent of his business is vended at Petco Park.

“A lot of people with the Padres helped me, and I thank them all,” David said. “John Moores, though, he put us in and got the ball rolling. He wanted to see an entrepreneur in this position -- and he snapped his fingers and made it happen. We’re a small company in that park, but we don’t get stepped on at all. We are underdogs that are making it.”

The Pinkneys have six employees who make their trademark air-popped corn (it’s not cooked in oil), and seven vendors hawk it in the park -- including David. He doesn’t have to sell but said it’s the best feeling in the world: “I make it with my own hands and sell it, and I get to see the blissful reaction on peoples’ faces when they eat it.”

Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com and a contributing editor to sandiego.com. His Web site (sandiegoDTOWN.com) is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.

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