There are many world-renowned cultural institutions, scenic vistas, and fine dining experiences to savor in Berkshire County, but few are as unique and charming as the little red Popcorn Wagon in the city of Pittsfield, the county seat.
Each summer, the beloved Popcorn Wagon, which has been operating in the downtown since the early 1900s, draws local patrons and out-of-town visitors, including the occasional celebrity. The actress and producer Elizabeth Banks has been known to stop by the wagon for a bag of tasty popcorn when she’s visiting family in Pittsfield, her hometown.
The antique wagon was originally built to draw horses. It was made by the Cretor's Co. of Chicago in 1906 and was brought from South Dakota to Pittsfield in 1909 by local resident, Daniel “Stuffy” McGinnis. For ten years, Stuffy operated it on North Street before moving the wagon to Park Square, next to the Berkshire County Savings Bank.
Stuffy passed away in 1941, leaving the popcorn wagon to his son, Harry, who continued to run the enterprise for 16 years. In 1956, Harry sold the wagon, known as the “Park Square Wagon,” to Pittsfield Police Officer Earl Borden who later gave it to his daughter, Maggie. She became the official owner of the business in 1970. During their ownership, the Borden’s converted the wagon’s steam-powered popcorn popper to an electric one.
In 1973, Berkshire County Savings Bank made an arrangement with Maggie to rename the bank the “Pop Corner Bank.” For more than 30 years, the bank used illustrations of the wagon and the wagon logo for advertising and promotional and sales merchandise. In 2003, Maggie sold the wagon to the bank, which is now named Berkshire Bank.
All very interesting, you might say. But how does Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont fit into the picture? In 2013, Goodwill was given a unique opportunity from the Berkshire Bank Foundation to operate the Popcorn Wagon as a hands-on, small-business training experience for graduates of the nonprofit’s retail training program.
Currently managed by mission services staff along with with supported employees, the Popcorn Wagon provides an opportunity for employees to use the skills they’ve learned in Goodwill’s mission-driven, customer service and job skills training classes.
Goodwill operates the Popcorn Wagon from the second week in June to the third week in September, weather permitting. Hours of operation are Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and during downtown Pittsfield’s First Fridays Artwalk from 5 to 8 p.m., July through September. It’s also a popular attraction at Pittsfield’s historic Fourth of July parade every year.
The Popcorn Wagon workforce training program focuses on providing new experiences for Goodwill’s workers. It’s a great opportunity for customers to meet the smiling faces of the people who are at the heart of Goodwill and its “Smiling G” logo. We invite you to stop by the Popcorn Wagon this summer to enjoy some buttery, warm popcorn, a cold beverage, and a cheery chat with our employees. It will surely put a smile on your face.