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Get Poppin’: Athabasca Farmers' Market features new vendor

Kernel Craze kettle corn is Jason Bulas’ passion project
kernel-kraze
Jason Bulas, owner and operator of Kernel Craze, can be found at the Riverfront on Saturday’s, easily picked out among the vendors by the bright red and white stripes on his shirt and booth. May 11 marked Bulas’s second week participating in the farmers market, and while he said the turnout was likely impacted by the wildfire smoke in the air, the day was still a success.

ATHABASCA —Avid Athabasca farmers' market attendees may recognize a familiar face manning the newest addition to the vendor line-up as long-time resident Jason Bulas made his small business debut at the first outdoor market of the 2024 season. 

“It was a big success,” said Bulas of the May 4 farmers market. “I was overprepared for the market, and I was sold out an hour before the market ended.”

Bulas, born and raised in Athabasca, has spent the last four months turning his entrepreneurial dream into a reality with the establishment of Kernel Craze, a local start-up selling home-made kettle corn on the weekends. 

“After the pandemic, I was trying to find a way to get out of the house and meet people because I used to be a really big people person,” said Bulas in a May 7 interview. “Then I found out, ‘Oh, I can start a business!’ I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart.”

While he said kettle corn has always been a favourite, a weekend popcorn pop-up wasn’t always his business plan. But Bulas said Kernel Craze is a new iteration of an Athabasca classic he remembers from childhood. 

“There was a gentleman that used to do (kettle corn) down at the Riverfront, and I always loved going there because it was so good, and you got to watch him make it — it was awesome,” he said. “I did some research and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s something I could do.’” 

Equipped with experience helping his grandma run a carwash in Edmonton and lessons learned from 4-H and Community Futures workshops in his youth, Bulas capitalized on the support and knowledge from the community in Athabasca to bring his vision to life. 

“You don’t realize how many people you make connections with,” he said. Bulas noted how relationships started when he worked at the Husky Market gas station as a teenager have come full circle since establishing his business. 

“You don’t really see them at the beginning, but as time goes on, they stay there forever, and that’s something that carries on,” he added. 

Thinking outside the bag

Bulas said so far, building his business with no formal experience or education has been a journey —  although his vision of Kernel Craze has evolved over the months, the ride has been a sweet one. 

“It is intimidating, but I think in life you need to have a little bit of risk, and I’ve always been open to thinking outside the box,” said Bulas. “You learn by your mistakes.” 

After making multiple adjustments to the logo design, tent display, and more, he said he’s satisfied with the end result: “It’s rewarding to see everything work out the way you wanted it to.” 

And the satisfaction seems to be shared with clients. Although Bulas only has two farmers' markets under his belt, the success seen on May 4 and 11 speaks for itself. 

“I do free samples at the table, and everybody really loved it, they said it was delicious,” he said. “I even had some people that said ‘Oh, I don’t need a sample, it looks so good I’ll take three bags.” 

Kernel Craze currently sells one product: standard homemade kennel corn. He noted that customers have already inquired about additional popcorn flavours but said he’s busy learning to walk before starting to run. 

“I just want to perfect one thing really well and have a really good product to sell to the people,” he said. 

Along with choice confectionery, considerate customer service is also a priority for Bulas. He said his love for interacting with people started behind the counter at his grandma’s Jasper Ave carwash and has continued throughout his career. 

His love for connecting with clients stems from his strong ties to the community and a love for all things Athabasca, which was exacerbated by time spent in Edmonton as an adult. 

“In the city, people are on edge and it’s a whole different ball game from a small town,” said Bulas. “Athabasca, I just feel it’s safe, you feel that sense of community.

“Of course, there might not be everything that the city has to offer, but I would rather have a good foundation and good friendships and a warm community.” 

Lexi Freehill, TownandCountryToday.com

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