Equal Time for York County’s Martin’s Chips
Undated Martin’s brochure with big kettle.
OK, even though I am an avowed fan of Utz potato chips, I feel obligated to give Martin’s equal time. Some of my best friends, and even beloved family members, like Martin’s best. (As most York Countians know you are an “Utz person” or “Martin’s person,” rarely both.)
Herr’s, Lays, and Middleswarth have small, but faithful, bands of followers in the area. There is also a lot of lingering nostalgia for Charles Chips, similar to Utz, and Senft’s, a Martin’s kettle cooked type. (Martin’s do make a traditional type chip now, but all the stalwarts I know swear by the kettle cooked.)
Did Martin’s start up as a very small enterprise in the 1930s or ’40s, like most of the rest of the local chip manufacturers?
Yes, Harry and Fairy Martin started frying chips in their farm kitchen in 1941, just like the Utz family and many others that didn’t stay in the business (like my parents). Times were tough for farmers in those days, but you had the potatoes and lard readily available to turn them into small bags of crunchy treats. It was labor intensive, but profits were much better.
The Martin’s built up quite a following, but kept their business fairly low key. They built a small factory and delivered the chips fresh daily to “mom and pop” groceries and market stands, according to clippings in the Martin’s chip file at the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives. They built their larger factory in Thomasville in 1953.
In 1971 Ken and Sandy Potter purchased Martin’s, still a small business with one truck, two full-time and four part-time employees. Ken Potter had started working for El-Ge chips when he was a teenager and knew the chip business well by then. The Potters added territory and products, including Wege pretzels and popcorn. According to the Martin’s website, they now deliver over 50 routes and produce over a million bags of chips and popcorn a month at their enlarged Thomasville plant. Potter sons now run the business.
I’m not sure how long Mrs. Martin continued to work for the Potters, but one clipping revealed that at age 81 she was still driving a truck of Martin’s chips to Eastern Market on Fridays to tend the stand there. She did confide to the reporter that she didn’t load the truck herself anymore. Maybe potato chips are the secret of longevity? They sure make life more fun, at any rate.
Click the links below for previous chip posts.
York chip vending machine
Utz sale off.
Utz of Hanover.