Popcorn ball business on a roll

Published: Jan. 8, 2020 at 11:00 AM CST
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In rural Holt County, the entrepreneurship spirit is alive and well as the owners of Honey Creek Treats continue to build their small business.

During a visit to Holt County, we talked with Debra and Jack Dempsey. "After I retired, I found that I needed something else to do," Debra said. "We had been making popcorn balls for my mother who was in the nursing home at the time." It turns out that Debra's mother played a key role in getting the popcorn ball business off the ground. "She would call within 24 hours, and say, I need some more popcorn balls," Debra said. "I would ask if she had given them all away, and she said no. We found out she was selling the popcorn balls rather than giving them away. She said the residents would pay up to $1 for them!" You could say Debra's mom, Shirley Sterns, was an entrepreneur in her own right at the nursing home.

"Then we started getting orders from other people, such as school functions and birthday parties," Debra said. "We decided maybe we could make this a business." Debra is in business with her husband Jack. "I made them for the grand kids, they would give them to their friends, and then people would be calling," Jack said. "It's just continued to roll since then."

Debra has a background in food service, as she worked for a local hospital for 27 years, and for a nursing home for 11 years. The two are proud to offer a product that certainly has some nostalgia behind it. "We make ours the old-fashioned way, where we actually cook the syrup on the stove," Debra said. "Then we pour it over the popcorn and form the ball, and that's all done by hand." Jack says it's a family recipe from his mother, Carlene Dempsey, and his grandmother. "It's just been handed down, and we are just using the recipe and the same method. Except now we wrap them, label them, and ship them in boxes."

In a way, both Debra's mom and Jack's mom played a role. Debra's mom started selling them, and Jack's mom had the recipe. "Currently we offer six flavors," Debra said. Some of the flavors include Lime, Pineapple, Raspberry, and Vanilla. "Some kids request grape," Jack said.

The popcorn balls can be found in O'Neill, but Honey Creek Treats is now launching a website if you'd like to order them. That web address is

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