Monday, March 26, 2012

Rio de Janeiro's Dial-a-Popcorn Service

There's dial-a-ride, dial-a-cab, dial-a-pizza, dial-a-forecast, even dial-a-dietician. So why shouldn't there be dial-a-bag-of-popcorn service? Well, in Rio de Janeiro there is. Called Disk Pipoka, which means dial-popcorn in Portuguese, the service is run out of popcorn cart set up on one of the busiest corners in Rio's central business district. It's the brainchild of a certain Nelsinho Pipoka (don't think that was his surname a birth, though) who's been delivering popcorn to snack-starved popcorn aficionados in the office towers that surround his stand for more than 10 years now.

Nelsinho, like many of Rio's outdoor vendors (and cab drivers and waiters) comes from Brazil's northeast - in this case the state of Ceará. Historically the poorest part of Brazil, over the centuries the northeastern part of the country has provided a steady stream of emigrants traveling to other, richer, parts of Brazil is search of their fortune, or at least in search of enough money to get by.

Rush hour at Disk Pipoka
When he first got to Rio and set up his popcorn stand in the city's downtown, there were days when he almost didn't sell any popcorn at all, and he was in danger of losing his investment in his cart. According to Nelsinho, he was saved by a flash of inspiration - Rio already had delivery services for many other foods, why not try popcorn delivery. Why not, indeed! Nelsinho bravely hired a runner to deliver the popcorn, painted his cart with his cell phone number and hoped for the best. He hasn't looked back since. His cart is hopping from 3 to 10 pm M-F, and he claims it's his delivery service that has made the business the success that it is.

Nelsinho's local fame has grown to the extent that his cart, and his service has been featured on local TV. Being the astute businessman that he is, he's made sure that his TV interviews are available on YouTube, where he has his own channel. Here's a clip of one of his interviews in which his charm and his style shine through, even if you can't understand his Portuguese.



  1. Thank you for this wonderful feature on Nelsinho Pipoka! We will have to seek him out when we are in Rio next year.

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