PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Potato Chip Co. has rebounded from a fire that damaged its Parkersburg plant in March.
Production of the company's Mister Bee potato chips has resumed following renovations of the facility.
West Virginia Potato Chip invested $1.5 million in upgrades and spent $1.1 million to buy a new fryer, President Randall Holden told the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
"The fire was a milestone and breakthrough point for us," said Holden, who also is the president of Wincore in Parkersburg. "If you look at the business today, there is no way we would have had the opportunity or ability to do a complete overhaul on the facility if the fire hadn't occurred.
"I see Mister Bee as something I love to do; it isn't work to me because every day I see the lights go on and growth," he said. "I want to make the business the pride of Parkersburg and I want it to represent the city well throughout the state and country."
During the renovation, Jones Potato Chips in Mansfield, Ohio, produced the Mister Bee brand for West Virginia Potato Chip using the same oil, potatoes and other ingredients used in the Parkersburg facility.
"There were certain things we could and could not control, but it was as close to producing a Mister Bee chip as we could get," Holden said. "We are very thankful to our customers for their support throughout this transition."
He also said that West Virginia Potato Chip recently signed a contract with Pennsylvania-based Snyder's of Hanover to distribute Mister Bee potato chips throughout West Virginia and new areas in Ohio and Kentucky.
"If you look at the facility today, the investment and where we are has really changed the business and we have come a long way since March," he said. "Since the fire we have been working to make the product the best it can be."
Leo Klein and his wife, Sara, established Mister Bee Potato Chip Co. in 1951. Holden and James Richard Barton bought the company's assets in 2012 after it shut down in November 2011 and filed for bankruptcy.
"If it weren't for Parkersburg, we probably wouldn't have made it," Holden said. "The first year we owned it, the Parkersburg market carried this business and, thanks to the loyal local customers, we are able to grow."
West Virginia Potato Chip plans to roll out several new flavors in January, including honey barbecue.
Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com