|
|
The Suburbanite
  • OK Potato Chip Company: A granddaughter’s recollection

  • The O.K. Potato Chip Company has a special connection to Coventry resident, Kay Lukac.

    She is the granddaughter of founder, Paul E Miller and his wife, Emilie. The company was founded in 1928 by the Millers and Henry and Mildred Schuette. Not long after founding the Great Depression was looming and the Schuettes dissolved the partnership.

    • email print
  • The O.K. Potato Chip Company has a special connection to Coventry resident, Kay Lukac.
    She is the granddaughter of founder, Paul E Miller and his wife, Emilie. The company was founded in 1928 by the Millers and Henry and Mildred Schuette. Not long after founding the Great Depression was looming and the Schuettes dissolved the partnership.
    Over the next few years, Miller had other partners come and go but finally found one who would stay - it was his own brother, John. An accountant by profession, John developed a business plan to keep the company profitable. The brothers worked together to gain better pricing by buying equipment for two shops. Paul opened a potato chip shop on Florida Avenue in Kenmore and John would open one in South Bend, Indiana. Kay recalls being told that the O.K. company logo, which is still in use today, was adapted from a political slogan during the late 1920s.
    The Great Depression changed many things. John, in addition to being the company accountant also assumed a new role of securing customers and delivering chips, pretzels and popcorn. On one of his deliveries, he was struck by a car and sustained two broken legs among other injuries. His recovery was slow and he wore leg braces the rest of his life.        
    Deeply in debt from medical bills, due to the accident, John and his wife, Anna were forced to close the Indiana shop.
    Over the years, Paul developed a friendship with Fred W. Albrecht and it was Albrecht who loaned Paul $3,000 to purchase additional equipment to expand his business. Albrecht also offered that all Acme stores would feature O.K. Potato Chips exclusively. At that time, O.K. Potato Chips were displayed in glass cases with a flip-up top so you could scoop and brown bag your own similar to the way bulk items are offered today.
    The business continued to grow and Paul, again, called on his brother, John, for help. He invited John to join him in growing the Kenmore store.
    John’s physical limitations influenced a few changes in the packaging process. Employees that normally stood would now sit to package and staple bags of chips during their shift. The company offered individual 5-cent bags of chips well into the 1970s.
    O.K. Potato Chips process of bathing and curing the potatoes before frying in vegetable shortening produced starch. Lots of starch - 50 gallon drums of starch.
    Paul decided to barter the drums of starch to Liniform Services for laundry processing in exchange for towels and aprons for his business . The Paul Millers eventually left the area and moved to Ridgeville Corners, leaving John in charge of daily operations of the company.
    Upon John and Anna’s retirement in 1945, Betty (Miller) Smith, daughter of Paul and Emilie, and her husband, Donald bought John and Anna’s half of the company and moved to Kenmore.
    Page 2 of 2 - In 1946, an accident claimed the life of one of the founders, Emilie Miller, also seriously injured in the accident were Paul Miller and his son, Martin.
    After their recovery, Paul didn’t have much interest in the business and Martin went off to finish college and serve in the Army before rejoining the business.
    Eventually, Martin Miller and his wife, Jeanne, bought Paul Miller’s remaining half of the business.
    The Smiths and the Martin Millers were approached in 1972 by Ted Robb to buy the business. An agreement was reached and Robb became the new owner.
    Martin continued to drive delivery truck for several years for the new owner.
    Not long after Robb bought the business, he moved the operation to Fifth Street in Barberton. He later sold the business to Troyer Farms of Detroit Michigan. O.K. Potato Chips are still being manufactured under the same original trade name by a company in Pennsylvania and can still be purchased at the local Acme stores.
    Kay recalls she and all of her sisters, Joyce, Donna, Betty Ann and Sally, worked in the family business on weekends all through their school years. Her father, Don, believed that no matter what age, if you could walk and talk, you could work and help clean up.
    Of interest, Betty Ann married Ed Rider the son of a long time potato broker from Wooster, who supplied O.K. with their potatoes . Ed has since taken over his father’s business and continues to supply O.K. and many other potato chip companies to this day.
    As a permanent remembrance of the OK Potato Chip Company and Don and Betty Smith there is a memorial brick placed at the Coventry Clock Tower.