Nordstrom came and Nordstrom went. The Lloyd Mall movie theater where I saw Office Space is now actual office space, and Toys "R" Us finally grew up and became a shopping-mall college for masseuses. Next year, even the Lloyd Center ice rink will probably get a shave-down.
But Joe Brown's Carmel Corn is forever.
Below Joe Brown's striped awning, the shop serves up glistening caramel apples and three kinds of fresh-made popcorn. It's the only store in Lloyd Center that has remained unscathed and unmoved since Lloyd began as an open-air mall in 1960.
Every year when I was a kid, we'd get a tin of Joe Brown's as big as my torso as a Christmas gift from a family friend—kettle corn, caramel corn and butter corn, each in its own compartment that would slowly intermix during the week or so we spent covering my parents' carpet with crumbs.
Sure, at Joe Brown's you can also get Swedish fish and mint truffles by the quarter-pound, red licorice ropes from a hook on the wall, or three flavors of Icee in sizes from large to decadent.
But you can get those anywhere. At Joe Brown's it's all about the corn ($2.95 for a small bag, $15.90 for a gallon tin), which you can mix with nuts for a slight premium.
The caramel is rich and thick and sweet and beautifully crisp, but also a bit variable—in the way of all things homestyle—one kernel a little browner and crisper than the other.
Weirdos and Midwesterners go for the Chicago corn—caramel and butter mixed together—but the masterpiece at Joe Brown's is the near-perfect kettle corn. It comes salty and just barely crisped, with little pockets of sugary sweetness.
For the past five years, the Lloyd Center Joe Brown's has been owned by Portland native Cyndee Kurahara, who—like me, and probably Ramona Quimby—remembered childhood afternoons with her nose pressed to the glass of a huge bin of sweet corn. And so her goal was to keep it much the same. You can do whatever you want to the ice rink. But you don't mess with Joe Brown's.
EAT: Joe Brown's Carmel Corn, Lloyd Center, 1053 Lloyd Center, 287-2143.