Food Entrepeneur, Black-Owned Business Organizer, & Local Mall Revivalist
Rodney Robertson, of Marion’s original popcorn & rolled ice cream venture, Pop’d Sensations, is a relative newcomer to the Marion community; but he’s no stranger to the power of food entrepreneurship to connect communities to food traditions, old & new, while helping to build local economies. A veteran of the food industry from Columbus by way of Atlanta, Rodney Robertson never really thought of himself as a keeper of foodways traditions. Rather, through his decades of work in the food service industry — working his way up the Wendy’s Chain, and then, to seeding franchises of Jet’s Pizza — Rodney has come to see local mom & pop eateries & food businesses as a critical way to rebuild & sustain local economies in an era of the multinational corporation.
Rodney moved to Marion, Ohio, almost sight-unseen, because he’d heard from friends in the industry about the Marion Centre Mall. Formerly known as Southland Mall, Marion Centre has been popularly lauded on YouTube video tours & fan websites as a “dead mall” — one that (like many indoor malls across our region), since losing its flagship anchor stores, has been plagued by vacancy.
Rodney didn’t see it that way. One of a new generation of entrepreneurs who re-imagine formerly “dead” local malls as potential community marketplaces, Rodney launched Pop’d Sensations at Marion Centre Mall, and has become something of a guru for its revitalization. He’s eager for other businesses to look into renting & occupying spaces in the mall, to help bring back a phenomenon that was common in the 1950’s and 1960’s: a Marion City supplies with local, home-grown mom & pop businesses, where Marion residents can shop while also directly supporting our local economy.
Inspired by his time in Atlanta, Rodney is also passionate about increasing the visibility of Black-owned businesses in Marion; amplifying the long-standing efforts of Ms. Tara Dyer and others, he is working to push Marion’s Chamber of Commerce to finally publish a Black-owned business directory of Marion County, to enable residents to celebrate, patronize, & support POC-led local business efforts.
Though Rodney is modest about his role as a purveyor of food traditions, Pop’d Sensations is certainly starting some new traditions in a town known for its longstanding connection to the popcorn industry. Pop’d Sensations offers all the classic gourmet popcorn flavors; but also has invented some new twists: peanut butter-chocolate popcorn, cookies ‘n’ cream popcorn, green caramel apple, & jalapeño white cheddar are just a few of the variations. In the past few years, Rodney also took a risk by adding rolled ice cream — a popular ice cream “fad” originating in Thailand around 2009, and “blowing up” in the United States by 2018 — to the Pop’d Sensations menu. The trend took off; and Pop’d Sensations now offers over a dozen custom rolled ice cream sundae flavors, including one, yes, named & themed entirely after the late Prince. Check the special whipped cream flavor, which rotates daily.
SHOP // ADDRESS:
Visit Pop’d Sensations inside the Marion Centre Mall, at 1509 Marion-Waldo Road || Marion, Ohio || 43302! Near the interior entrance to Joann Fabrics.
Gourmet popcorn; rolled ice cream; catering // parties // special events
Foodways; Black-owned businesses; mall revitalization