Popcorn machine maker still popping along after 125 years

January 26, 2010 3:37:27 PM PST
What's the first thing you do at the movies after you buy your ticket? Odds are you buy some popcorn. And chances are that popcorn was popped on a machine made by a Chicago company that's been in business for 125 years. The story of the C. Cretors company on North California isn't just the tale of a successful invention, the corn popping machine, it's also the story of five generations of a Chicago family that have taken a great idea and turned it into a worldwide success. It all began over 125 years ago when the original Charles Cretors had ideas popping in his fertile mind.

"My great grandfather bought a peanut roaster that he didn't like and thought he could do a better job. He moved to Chicago, built the peanut roaster and that evolved into a popcorn machine which he took to the Columbian Exposition in 1893 and from then on it was building popcorn machines," said Charlie Cretors, CEO C. Cretors Popcorn Machines.

That first small popcorn wagon turned into a booming business that satisfied fresh popped popcorn cravings from Chicago to Shanghai - from street wagons to movie theatres everywhere.

"Our machines can be found virtually around the world. Ah ... we have records of some of the earliest machines in the late 1800s being shipped over into Europe," said Andrew Cretors, fifth generation Cretors Popcorn Machines.

They make thousands of theatre popcorn machines every year and they are tested in Chicago before shipment. No, they don't sell the popcorn. They just make the machines - some of them as big as locomotives.

"It can pop a thousand pounds of popcorn an hour," said Andrew Cretor.

The machine goes back to 1895 just two years after the World's Fair. It was powered by gasoline or kerosene. It was a steam engine and roasted peanuts and popped popcorn all at the same time. Charlie Cretors I was some kind of genius.

"He was pretty darn smart, you bet he was. I'd have loved to have met him," said Charlie Cretor. "Maybe I will."

The C. Cretors Company celebrates its 125th anniversary next Thursday.


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