Betty-Ann McCluskey pours hot caramel into freshly popped corn

Betty-Ann McCluskey pours hot caramel into freshly popped corn before stirring the ingredients in a well-greased bowl. Either cashews or pecans are added to the mix before the treat is spread out on cooling trays.

When Betty-Ann McCluskey came to Montrose to take over her father’s business after he died of a heart attack, she thought it was only going to be for a few months.

But that was in 1990, and McCluskey, whose father, Glenn Aldrich, founded Poppa’s Corn, has been running the holiday-time food store in Montrose for these past 30 years.

During those previous three decades, Poppa’s Corn was known for its butter toffee, nut-laced popcorn and gourmet candy corn. Aldrich created these recipes which have been passed down to McCluskey and her family.

McCluskey said the job took three months of her year. She would make around 5,000 pounds of baked goods in about nine weeks.

“It was busy. I was a busy girl,” she said with a laugh.

However, McCluskey announced “sometimes good things must come to an end,” as she’s closed down the business for this upcoming yuletide season.

She said the reason comes down to her husband of 55 years being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Despite her husband’s disease, and the closure of Poppa’s Corn, she said she’s not sad for the recent turn of events because she’s able to spend time with her spouse.

“He’s an amazing man,” McCluskey said. “I’ve been given the blessing of taking care of him.”

But they’ve spent the last few decades creating Christmastime treats thanks to McCluskey’s father.

Aldrich was well-known in Montrose dating back to the 1930s as he worked all across the community, including as a baker at City Market, before retiring in 1980 to start Poppa’s Corn.

Aldrich lived the rest of life doing what he loved as he suffered his fatal heart attack while cooking his cherished baked goods, said McCluskey.

When she came to his home, McCluskey noticed there were still orders left to be filled. So she thought she would complete the remaining ones and head back to Denver, where she helped children who were abused and neglected.

McCluskey, who was also a Red Rocks Community College teacher, said once she started to finish off her father’s orders, she found there were many reasons to stay and continue the family business.

“I became very attached to the people,” she said. “So I decided to move over here.”

After taking over for her father in December 1990, she and her family continued to run the business up until her spouse’s diagnosis.

Previously, McCluskey was able to work while her spouse could still participate and watch her as she worked. But this year his ailment has worsened, and as a result, he needs constant supervision, McCluskey said.

She said though some may see this as a tremendous challenge for her, she recognized “a wise daughter” who told her if she changed her attitude, the experience will be different.”

“She was absolutely right,” McCluskey said. “I look forward to each day with him. I just love him, even more, every single day.”

McCluskey said she’s thankful for the community’s support, dating back to when her father ran the business.

“Hopefully, I’ve done him proud,” she said.

Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.

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