WILLIAMSBURG — Maryann Sanderlin grew up around amusement parks, even working at one as a teen. She remembers that even then, she loved making people smile and creating joy for families.
Sanderlin got the idea to create Fire Tried Kettle Corn after trying her hand at franchising another local kettle corn location. When the franchise didn’t work out, Sanderlin decided to explore making her own line, and in 2019, she officially launched her business.
A family affair, Sanderlin and her son began the business together. Sanderlin would sell the kettle corn after her son cooked it. After calling many different satellite locations around the Hampton Roads area home, Sanderlin has been welcomed into the Busch Gardens family.
“I had always dreamed of getting into Busch Gardens. It is a wonderful place. I always knew that we had the snack and they had our customer base. Busch Gardens was where we always needed to be. We have had such a wonderful and positive response from being there,” Sanderlin said, admitting becoming a Busch Gardens vendor was a top priority for many years.
Fire Tried Kettle Corn makes traditional kettle corn with refined sugar, salt, and oil. The team also focuses on finding and creating new flavors and incorporating different ingredients. New additions include a Cinnamon Toast Crunch-themed kettle corn and a jalapeño kettle corn.
To get into the Busch Gardens spirit, Fire Tried Kettle Corn has also reimagined its products to reflect some of the park’s top attractions. Coaster flavors include Apollo’s Chariot (grape banana), Alpengeist (blue raspberry cheesecake), Invadr (chocolate), Darkoaster (wild berry), and Griffin (strawberry and blueberry).
The team also sells a special Busch Gardens blend, a caramel white cheddar kettle corn.
“The fact that we’re a great match for Busch Gardens is the fact that we have a snack that their patrons really love. We are always reimagining kettle corn into something a lot bigger and more fun than just your traditional snack,” Sanderlin said.
Fire Tried Kettle Corn has seen so much success in its first visits to the park it will continue the relationship for another year, and also adding in its first season at Water Country USA.
“Being at Busch Gardens has been a huge blessing and has allowed us to grow and expand our business,” Sanderlin said.
Ultimately, Sanderlin and the Fire Tried Kettle Corn family have hopes of expanding to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Kings Dominion.
Sanderlin never dreamed that owning her own business would be possible, adding that never giving up was a big part of how she managed to achieve her small business owner goals.
“The never giving up is a big part of being successful. You need to find the people who are going to push you through the times when you want to throw in the towel. I really believe that you have to find the inspiration, whether that be from a podcast, a book, or a show. Always keep yourself inspired,” Sanderlin said.
The Fire Tried Kettle Corn team can be found in various locations throughout Busch Gardens. Fire Tried Kettle Corn also accepts orders through Instagram. To place an order or for more information, visit instagram.com/firetriedkettlecorn.