Having owned and operated a service-based business since 1991, we both had an itch to do something new. In June of 2015, a beautifully renovated retail store in the historic downtown of West Bend provided the perfect place to begin manufacturing and retailing our family’s caramel corn and other treats to a friendly community.
Both of us grew up in the Milwaukee area and had our foundations in business formed while in college. After marrying in 1988, we went on to have three great sons who have been our inspiration to actually have some fun while working hard.
Our greatest joys at Laughing Mountain are seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they step into the shop and exclaim, “It smells so good in here!” and then engaging in conversation with them over popcorn samples. Time after time we hear “thank you for having this place” from our visitors. Because of these relationships, our hearts are knit together with this community, and it is our joy to serve the people here. We are thankful to God for providing this wonderful place where we actually have fun working together and have come to know so many who have enriched our lives with love and laughter.
When the eldest of our three sons left home for college in Virginia in the summer of 2011, we never dreamed that something he did there would inspire the story of Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn that you are reading right now.
It began in the late ‘70’s when newspapers were the hub of sharing information with your local community. Nancy’s grandmother, Gertrude, clipped a recipe for homemade buttery caramel corn from a small-town Wisconsin newspaper. That recipe was handed down and Bill, Nancy’s dad, would make the caramel corn to share with the family as a Christmastime tradition. Motivated by impatience at having to wait until Christmas for Grandpa to make caramel corn, our son Jack began making it himself. He continued to make this family favorite and shared it with family and friends throughout middle school, high school, and even modiﬁed it to work in his college dorm’s microwave. On one unfortunate occasion he burned the caramel badly and smoked out the entire wing of the dorm. Oops.
During Jack’s ﬁnal Christmas break from college in 2014, he continued to cook up batch after batch of the delicious treat from home to ship to his friends around the country. It was then that Mark realized that there was something truly special about this caramel corn and proposed we make it for a bigger crowd. Research about equipment and more flavors ensued and on June 4th, 2015, Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn opened its doors in historic downtown West Bend, Wisconsin.
Why Laughing Mountain? Those words are a transliteration of our German last name, Laufenberg. Since our goal was to make people smile by providing superior service along with quality popcorn in a fun and cheerful environment, we thought the suggestion of a friend to call it Laughing Mountain was a perfect ﬁt. (Thanks, Justus!)
Each member of our family played a part in the birth of this operation, and while Mark and Nancy are the faces you see cooking caramel and tumbling cheese popcorn in the shop, we are grateful for our children Jack, Justin, and Stephen for their work, along with daughters-in-law Maddy and Lauren, and friends Simeon and Justus. Lastly, we’re especially thankful for Nancy's dad, Bill, nearly 87 at the time of his passing in early 2019, who had been the guy in charge of package labeling and encouragement. He is greatly missed. It’s been a joy to be a part of this team effort to bring Laughing Mountain Gourmet Popcorn to you. As we share our family’s tradition with you, we hope to help you create and be a part of some of your own.