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George Wiley's treat

Will history repeat itself in salty snacks?

Will history repeat itself in salty snacks? The 78-year-old co-founder of Los Angeles,based Hotchkis and Wiley retired from the investment business in the mid-1990s. To keep busy, he started making homemade candy, chocolate and flavored popcorn, selling the goodies out of Gaslamp Popcorn, a tiny store he ran in San Diego. The store failed, but the popcorn was so popular that Wiley decided to find a way to mass-market it. Hence Gaslamp Popcorn Co., which soon began supplying local grocery stores. The high-priced snack is made with corn grown by Indiana farmers who have promised not to use genetically enhanced stock. Now Wiley's popcorn line is exploding. Wal-Mart, Safeway and Sam's Club are carrying the product; in the past year Wiley has built three new popping factories to keep up with demand. Still, the former money management mogul doesn't take his newfound success as a snack entrepreneur too seriously. Laughs Wiley, "This is really just a hobby."