CANFIELD, Ohio — Every county fair has a tradition, a time-honored landmark or event that people flock to every year, because without it, their fair is not complete.
For the regulars of the Canfield Fair, one of these yearly traditions is a trip to the Pop Shop Restaurant, celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.
The Pop Shop, founded by Tony and Ellamae Carrera in 1970, was based on simplicity and a focus on an inexpensive product. Initially housed in a trailer on the north end of the fairgrounds, they served pop and snacks to junior fair families with the hope of providing an affordable meal that brought money back to the youth.
The Carreras’ daughter, Kim Moff, current Mahoning County junior fair coordinator, grew up working in the Pop Shop.
For junior fair families, eating concession food all week gets expensive, Moff said, and her parents and other organizers wanted an alternative that also gave the youth a chance to serve the community and work toward money for college.
Since that first year, the Pop Shop has grown, and the original trailer, tent, and a larger trailer have all become too small for the numerous customers the Pop Shop serves. Because of its popularity, a permanent building filled with updated equipment now houses the Pop Shop. You can find it near the North Saddle Horse Ring.
To complement the improved space, the Pop Shop is now called the “Pop Shop Restaurant,” and is able to serve many times the amount of people it did in the beginning.
Along with a new look, the Pop Shop has added some new items to their menu. While hot dogs and pop are here to stay, the breakfast, lunch, and dinner courses now feature full meals of eggs, bacon, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, hot soup, and a new 4-H’er favorite, milkshakes.
For 45 years, junior fair members have worked in the Pop Shop alongside other volunteers, helping to serve customers, cook, and clean tables.
“Never,” said Carrera, “have we refused any youth that wanted to take a shift.”
Because of the Pop Shop’s success, the Carreras wanted to give back and thank all the junior fair members who had volunteered their time, so they tapped into their founding principles.
“The Pop Shop was founded on two simple things: economical food and the providing of economical assistance to junior fair youth,” said Moff’s husband, Duane, who also helps with the restaurant during fair week.
With continued volunteer and customer support of the Pop Shop, an “assistance award” was able to be created for members who work at least three years in the Pop Shop. Over the years, that scholarship program has provided nearly $20,000 to assist junior fair members with the cost of college, said Martha Shaefer, head of the Pop Shop assistance fund committee.
Some of those recipients even come back to serve a shift with other alumni, just because they want to keep giving back, said Moff,
For the Moffs, Carrera and Shaefer, the Pop Shop is a tradition, and is something they hope will become a tradition for generations to come.
“One big, happy family” is how Carrera describes the Pop Shop. Everyone enjoys working, and there is no greater feeling than “when a young member comes up to you, and asks to work at the Pop Shop.”
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