For almost six years, Michael and Era Pope have supplied Columbia and the surrounding area with spicy and regular boiled peanuts of different sizes, hot chocolate in the winter and cake on a stick.
The idea for Boiled Pnuts Y’all sprouted from Michael Pope’s rock band. He sold his signature boiled peanuts as merchandise to promote his music at shows, and people loved it so much they encouraged him to start his business. The band is no longer together, but the business that came from it continues to thrive.
One of Michael Pope’s favorite things about Soda City is the people, he said. The business has only missed a handful of Saturdays since opening. On average, he said they see close to 5,000 people on a typical Saturday.
“Everybody’s just in a good mood and just wants to have fun,” he said.
Era Pope said her favorite aspect of Soda City is similar. She said they have seen tourists from all over the country.
“My favorite part of Soda City is just being able to come downtown once a week and help make a community that is both awesome for the local community and helps to really spotlight Columbia to the rest of the country,” she said.
Soda City has allowed the boiled peanuts business to expand outside of the Main Street market. Boiled Pnuts Y’all caters and sells its products in an antique store, Re-Find, located off Two Notch Road.
“I love South Carolinians' excitement about boiled peanuts,” Era Pope said. “We have this really cool sort of position, in that we’re selling our state snack and we’re selling this food that people have been eating for, really, hundreds of years, and it has a lot of connection to family and friends and nostalgia and also just good times.”
Boiled Pnuts Y’all can also be found on social media. Its YouTube channel includes a parody video hosted by Era Pope called “Martha Stewart Thanksgiving Parody (with boiled peanuts, y'all),” where she gives Thanksgiving-themed recipes and advice.
Michael Pope said business thrives even on rainy weekends.
“Thanks to the stability of Soda City, the consistency of it, we get to just focus on boiled peanuts and art instead of getting jobs,” he said.
Some vendors in Soda City don't have a permanent spot, but the Popes can be found in the same spot outside of the Columbia Museum of Art every Saturday.
“We’ve been here so long that this is our static spot. They never move us around,” Michael Pope said. “We like being the art outside of the museum.”
The little shack on wheels has always been a part of Boiled Pnuts Y’all’s image, but the business has seen different ones through its lifetime. The one seen in Soda City now has been around for two years, and Michael Pope built it himself.
“I love Soda City, and it’s facilitated a '90s punk kid selling Southern culture to tourists,” he said.