Blevins Popcorn

James Victor Blevins, who liked to be known as "the Popcorn King" began to market his own version of popcorn to movie and grocery chains in the 1940s.

Blevins was originally from Birmingham, Alabama, and worked for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. He moved to Nashville to go into business as a food broker. It was at that brokerage house that he realized how demand for popcorn was surging along with movie audiences and that it was in short supply. Seizing on the opportunity, he founded the Blevins Popcorn Company in Nashville in 1945. He was able to offer a fluffier, tastier hybrid corn that proved highly successful, especially because concessionaires got more bulk for every ounce of popping kernels.

For a starter, Blevins signed on a Tennessee movie chain to become its sole popcorn supplier. His enterprise branched out to introduce its product beyond Tennessee and started selling it in ready-to-pop packaging. He also concocted a buttery but low-fat seasoning in the company kitchen. He introduced popcorn to the baseball bleachers of Japan, a venture that he sold to Frito-Lay in 1952.

Mindful that a good hype cannot hurt in business, he dubbed the company's headquarters Popcorn Village and called himself variously the mayor of Popcorn Village or, trumping that, the Popcorn King. In 1948, he introduced a rather unscientific popcorn poll that nonetheless shamed some professionals by predicting Harry S. Truman's presidential victory in November. The poll accurately called six presidential elections altogether.

Blevins sold the business in 1961. It came to sell a wide variety of supplies to concessionaires as it passed through several ownerships as the Blevins Concession Supply Company. It moved its base to Tampa, Florida, and grew into the nation's biggest supplier of movie-theater concessions. But by the early 1990s it was in financial straits after having bought up a string of related companies. Overextended, it was forced into bankruptcy in 1995.

Blevins was inducted into the Popcorn Institute's Hall of Fame in 1989. After selling most of his business to the Conwood Corporation, a diversifying tobacco company, in 1961, he continued to manage its Blevins affiliate for several years, particularly its international operations.

After retiring, he looked after his investments and a family foundation that helps students get through college and advocates tithing for charity. He kept an office and recently completed a book, as yet unpublished, on the subject of tithing for the common good.
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