By JESSICA WETZLER
Daily News-Record 4/29/20
Lisa and Rob Roeschley were getting ready to close the doors to Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn in downtown Harrisonburg when they received a call from manufacturer Danone North America, which wanted to place an order for popcorn.
The lights were turned off, and the store was cleaned and ready to be closed for the foreseeable future as other Shirley stores also closed shop.
But when Danone North America called that evening, it wasn’t just placing an order for a few bags of popcorn, but 700 to show appreciation to its employees.
“I had to take a minute because it was overwhelming,” Lisa Roeschley said.
From closing Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn on March 24 to dropping off Danone North America’s order on March 26, the call for large orders from corporations kept Lisa and Rob in business, along with their employees.
In a matter of days, the Roeschleys were receiving orders from Park View Credit Union, LD&B Insurance, Beachy Arehart, Funkhouser Real Estate Group, Dupont Community Credit Union, InterChange, Harrisonburg Community Health Center and the National Health Center — all to show appreciation to employees, front-line workers, Sentara RMH, Bridgewater Retirement Community and more.
Three weeks after closing, Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn had fulfilled orders totaling close to 3,000 bags of popcorn.
“Every time we get one of these orders, it touches our hearts,” Lisa said while trying to hold back tears. “Our popcorn seeds are locally grown from Dayton at Green Acres Farm, so these orders benefit them as well.”
Rob said it has been fun to watch so many corporations try to provide a “pick me-up” for their employees through popcorn.
“It’s been a neat thing to see,” he said. “It’s neat that they were still having a good gesture on their part.”
While business has been popping at Shirley’s, Rob and Lisa said the hardest part for them was having to come in to work and see their slogan, “It’s pure happiness.”
“It has not been a happy time,” Rob said.
“We miss the people and having the signs outside,” Lisa said.
But it has been the support of the community that has kept Lisa and Rob’s spirits alive. As orders are filled one at a time, Lisa said their landlord for the business has deferred rent payments to help out.
The business owners have also received help from the Magpie Diner, which has been offering products from several downtown food locations to be ordered online, allowing Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn to be ordered in small and large sizes and various flavors.
However, Lisa said, they are only focusing on filling large corporate orders instead of individual orders.
While large orders continue to come in, it is not certain when or if Shirley’s will have to close as planned.
“There are so many uncertainties to how long this will last and when things will get back to normal, so on our side of it is that each order takes us a few more days to keep going on,” Rob said. “Each order helps [us] to see we can at least make it to this date.”
Rob said popcorn can create “a diversion from all the negative going on around us,” while also making a great gift to say thank you.
“We look forward to the day all of our lights are on and the doors are unlocked,” Lisa said.