The machines sit no more than 30 feet apart from one another, the reinforced walls separating them like a line in the sand.
It’s one of the most intense rivalries in all of Marion: that of the free Friday popcorn.
Sally Hannaford and Dorothy Shipman play the part of master chefs for Central National Bank and Lanning Pharmacy, respectively, cooking up corn for their patrons. Both ladies come in to work before business hours to prepare the day’s batch.
“They compliment it every Friday, don’t they, guys?” Shipman said, turning to her co-workers for affirmation.
“Quite a bit!” a co-worker replies.
“Right in the door, they compliment the smell,” says another.
“They say, ‘(sniff, sniff), Dorothy’s here!” she said. “Yep, that’s true.”
Shipman said she makes her popcorn with a low salt content for the pharmacy’s regular coffee drinkers.
“For the guys with the blood pressure, you know, at a pharmacy,” she said.
While Shipman’s crop is year-round, Hannaford prides herself on her product’s exclusivity.
“Everybody wants it so bad during the summer that they’re ready for it in the winter,” she said.
Hannaford’s first cook of the season was Friday, in advance of Old Settlers’ Day. She cooks popcorn every Friday until Chingawassa Days.
“They can come see Bella (the bearded dragon that lives at the bank) at the same time,” she said. “So there’s two benefits: They get the popcorn and they get to see Bella.”
For one man, Sally’s husband and pharmacy coffee-time regular Roger Hannaford, the dilemma really hits home. He conquers the difficult choice, however, with his indomitable appetite.
“It’s not that tough because I love popcorn,” he said. “Each facility has its own special popcorn flavor, so I usually go in and get a fresh bag at Central National Bank first thing, take it over to the girls and eat that bag. Then, when I’m done with that bag, I go over to the pharmacy about 10:30 a.m. and have me another bag of popcorn.
“To be politically correct, I go to both places.”
Roger said the first of these popcorn doubleheaders is always exciting.
“It’s like the opening day of college football, the opening day of hunting season,” he said. “When Central opens up those doors, you can smell the aroma of the popcorn all down Main St. It’s pretty exciting. I know fall is in the air.”
There have been no talks between pharmacy owner Traci Lanning and bank president Todd Heitschmidt about agreeing to offer popcorn on different days.
“No — it’s just a competition,” Sally Hannaford said.
Lanning said the competition was infringing on her establishment’s tradition.
“They need to become a little more original,” Lanning said, tongue-in-cheek.
Jibes aside, both establishments are able to maintain civility.
“Heck, Todd (Heitschmidt) comes over and eats our popcorn,” Lanning said.