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Snackmaker popping up in South Tampa location

TAMPA — Chef Inspired Popcorn Company is moving its salted caramel, birthday cake, windy city and other flavors from the shelves of its first location on Hanley Road to a new SoHo storefront.

The company, founded by Lizette Rivera, grew out of her need to find new snacks after being diagnosed with celiac disease about four years ago.

"I saw another popcorn company and thought, 'This is so cool, popcorn is gluten-free,' so my daughter and I started working on flavors," Rivera said. "Then one night while watching Scandal, we made a whole bunch of popcorn to bring to my daughter's softball game and the team loved it."

Now, everything is made on-site, popped in coconut oil, in a gluten- and nut-free facility.

"Some ingredients are local, some are not," Rivera said. "Most of the stuff we buy here is local, then my fiance and I travel a lot and bring things from other places. It combines our love of traveling and bringing some culture to the store with our love of everything local."

After working as an insurance adjuster for 22 years, Rivera is now doing something fun, and her passion for popcorn is only growing.

"I want to build a chain," Rivera said. "We just got our trademark after a lot of sweat and tears. I want to build more on the retail end."

She shut down everything at the Hanley Road location to make 927 S Howard Ave. the main location for all production. Some non-popcorn items will be introduced at the new store, starting with caramel apples.

"In the beginning of 2017, I am going to look for the second location," Rivera said. "I am thinking maybe something more beachy."

Rivera hopes to be open by next week with an official grand opening celebration following soon after.

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