HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (AP) — Pink lemonade, smoky barbecue, birthday cake, southern butter pecan and ranch are only a few of the 30-plus flavors of popcorn offered by 10-year-old Mason Marshall.
In Holden Beach, he's known as "the popcorn kid."
Last year, Mason's mom, Melissa, charged him with the task of finding a way to give back to the community they call home. After a little bit of thought, Mason decided to start making and selling popcorn because he didn't know anyone else in the area who sold it.
"Mom said 'you have to do something good for somebody else,'" Mason said. "Now I'm in the popcorn business."
Starting out with eight different flavors, Mason began taking a few bags to sell at Lighthouse Gifts on Holden Beach Road on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer of 2015.
By early December, Mason had sold enough popcorn to buy Christmas toys for 20 children in Brunswick County.
"He's learning about how poor the communities are around here in some spots," said Tony Marshall, Mason's dad. "He found out there were kids out there that weren't getting Christmas, so he took the money he earned last year and went and bought Christmas presents."
As his popularity has grown, Mason now won't take less than 50 bags to sell at his small stand and takes order requests on his Facebook page, Mason's Market, NC.
This year, Mason is on track to buy Christmas gifts for more than 40 area children. He also receives charitable donations from groups and individuals who have come to know the popcorn kid and his mission. Mason said it makes him feel good to give children in need a Christmas.
While his business continues to grow, Mason is constantly on the hunt for new flavors. Though he wouldn't share trade secrets, Mason said concocting his more than 30 popcorn flavors involves a lot of trial-and-error.
One failed experiment involved an attempt at making piña colada-flavored popcorn.
"As a mom, you want to be like 'oh it's good,' but it was all kinds of horrible," Melissa laughed.
With the failures, however, come the successes. Mason's best-seller is his caramel popcorn, a recipe he carefully crafted from scratch.
Mason plans to continue selling popcorn at his stand every Friday and Saturday until school starts, when he will sell exclusively on Saturday. Though he's aiming to "buy Christmas" for 40 children this year, Mason said he may surpass that goal by December.