It’s possible that the brand will live on, as the company hopes to sell the iconic Mikesell's brand to another quality snack food manufacturer.
Sad news from Mikesell’s this week: the Dayton-based company announced that it has begun to wind down all operations, including manufacturing and distribution, as it prepares to liquidate assets.
An unfortunate end for a company that overcame disaster twice and was ultimately a 20th-century success story. Daniel W. Mikesell opened in 1910 selling dried beef and sausage. Three short years later, the 1913 flood wiped Mikesell out, so he rebuilt. In 1915, a fire destroyed the business, and Mikesell rebuilt again.
The iconic potato chips that became the company’s staple were only initially only offered seasonally to be enjoyed at picnics. According to legend, chips were born when a guest returned an order of french fries to the kitchen with a complaint that they were sliced too thick. That prompted the chef to throw potato shavings into hot oil until they were fried to a crisp. The guest was delighted and the crisps were christened “Saratoga chips” for the place they were invented, Saratoga Springs, NY.
Potato chips caught on as a year-round food, and, eventually, Mikesell purchased new equipment, built a new manufacturing facility, and saw to it that Mikesell’s chips earned their niche on local grocery store shelves.
As a Dayton native, I grew up a few short miles from where the factory has been since 1955. DW passed away in 1965. Mikesell’s is still privately owned and prospered under Leslie Mapp’s leadership for the next 30 years.
Our family has been eating Mikesell’s chips for as long as I can remember. The signature red twin-pack of non-ridged chips was a staple in our family’s kitchen in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.
In the beginning, DW insisted chips be fried in 100% peanut oil. He was right, it does make a difference. The Seibert’s agree, the chips cooked in peanut oil more often developed the big bubbles that my sister and I would break open and dip into a glass to fill with cola before shoveling them in. I’m not sure when Mikesell’s stopped using peanut oil, though around 2017 they introduced a legacy chip fried in peanut oil.
Mikesell’s has been a local favorite for more than a century and people who move away from Dayton often order them shipped and/or seek out the chips when they return for a visit.
Several “Dayton Style” pizzerias offer only Mikesell’s brand chips including Marian’s, Cassano’s, and Hoagies to name a few. What chips will fill their racks now? Local candy maker, Esther Price collaborated with Mikesell’s to produce Chocolate Covered Potato Chips in both milk and dark chocolate. Will Esther Price seek out another Ohio chip manufacturer as a partner?
UPDATE: Mikesell’s found that quality buyer in Zanesville, OH. They evidently didn't want to jinx the deal by announcing before the i's were dotted and t's crossed. Monday, well-known Ohio potato chip producer, Conn’s Potato Chips Co., announced in a written statement that it has acquired the brand rights to Mikesell’s, and will produce the chips using the original Mikesell’s recipes. On Valentine's Day, Conn's proudly displayed the first Mikesell's bag of chips off the line at their Zanesville plant in a Facebook post.