Autistic man finds niche at Bastion Square

The process of making popcorn has become methodical for Asher Johnson-Dorman.

Asher's Amazing Popcorn will be on sale at the Bastion Square Public Market on Sundays.

Asher's Amazing Popcorn will be on sale at the Bastion Square Public Market on Sundays.

The process of making popcorn has become methodical for Asher Johnson-Dorman.

First, he takes coconut oil and pours it into the element, waiting patiently for it to heat up. Then he pours in cups of kernels. Once they’ve all stopped popping, he flips the aluminum pot and dumps the popcorn into the big glass box, evaluating it to make sure the popcorn has the right look and texture.

Next, he combines maple syrup, sugar, butter and maple extract to make a maple caramel sauce.

Once it has been whisked together, he gently and carefully pours the sauce onto the popcorn, letting it ooze and soak into every piece.

In the final step, he packages it in individual bags neatly tying them with red ribbon and placing an “Asher’s Amazing Popcorn” sticker on the front.

Twenty-two year-old Asher is the owner of Asher’s Amazing Popcorn, that currently sells two flavours of popcorn, buttered and his own specialty Maple Caramel Crunch recipe.

Asher, who has autism, started his own business after taking an entrepreneur course that taught him how to make a business plan and deal with marketing and budgeting.

“We went through a process called Discovery in which we find out what their likes and dislikes are, what kind of environment they work best in, what their interests and needs are,” said his mother Catriona Johnson.

“We discovered that Asher liked working with machinery . . . When he was younger, he was really into overhead projectors and coffee machines. He liked working with people and had an interest in popcorn.”

Through that program, Asher volunteered at the Victoria Theatre where he learned how to make popcorn, clean the machine and interact with customers.

From there his love for popcorn grew.

“I got to make popcorn at the theatre,” said Asher. “I’m trying to make lots of money to buy an RV.”

Catriona added he likes the sound the machine makes and the fact that he is responsible for taking care of it himself.

“He’s grown and become more social because of the interactions around the selling of popcorn. It’s interesting and not something I thought would happen,” she said.

In December, he test ran his popcorn at a few craft fairs around town and had a positive response, making between $80-100 per day.

Asher will be selling his popcorn throughout the summer at the Bastion Square Public Market on Sundays.

“Asher’s Amazing Popcorn is a nice thing to have at the market,” said organizer Thea Harris.

He is one of 65 local vendors participating in the market that runs until the end of September stretching from Warf to Government Street from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

As part of the 20th annual celebrations, Harris added they’re bringing back musicians who played at the market when it first started and will host a monthly fashion show.