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East Sac Hardware Store’s Free Popcorn Tradition Goes On Brief Hiatus After Complaint

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

East Sac Hardware employee Steve Carlson stands by the store’s popcorn machine, which was on a brief hiatus after someone called the Sacramento County Environmental Health Division with a complaint.

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

If you've cruised the aisles of East Sac Hardware on Folsom Boulevard over the last 18 years, you've met employee Steve Carlson: the gentlemen who sports a cap and a white goatee.

You may also have come away with a snack along with your purchase: a free bag of popcorn.

"There's a lot of adults who come in here and get popcorn," Carlson said.

But the tradition beloved by customers recently went on hiatus after a complaint was made to the Sacramento County Environmental Health Division.

“Somebody complained,” Carlson said. “And when they complain about things we didn't do, and there's no proof of, such as … throwing popcorn on the floor and then putting it back in the machine. Or, letting people just grab popcorn out of the machine with their hands — we never allowed that. So, we don't do it now, we never have."

After the store's owner, Sheree Johnston, announced the popcorn machine's "retirement" on the social network NextDoor, 182 people chimed in, mostly in support and dismay.

Carlson says the complaint was baseless. County health staff came to suss it out, and after a few changes, the popper's back in a new spot by the window.

He says fewer people have been asking for popcorn since the kerfuffle, but others keep the tradition going.

“They'll buy a little thing, but they get their popcorn. And that makes 'em happy,” he said. “In this world, if anything can make you happy, that's good."

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