It was 1920 in Tiffin, Ohio when Fred Ballreich and his wife, Ethel, opened their homemade potato chip operation in a dirt floor garage, using a copper kettle heated with wood scraps. It was an all day process that produced only 14 pounds of potato chips. Ballreich's chose to call their potato chips "marcelled" (which means "wavy"), taken from the popular ladies' wavy hairstyle of the 1920's.
The quality of Ballreich's Potato Chips created a huge demand that couldn't be met by a husband and wife operation. Fred contacted his brother, Carl Ballreich, who was working as a supervisor at the Chevrolet Motor Plant in Flint, Michigan. Carl came back to his hometown to form the joint venture of Ballreich Brother's Potato Chips. With the combination of Fred's sales and baking skills along with Carl's strong work ethic and management skills, the company was well on its way to success.
Carl's wife, Emma, and Fred's wife, Ethel, played a large role in growing the business as well, working hard peeling, sacking, and packing. Both couples lived side by side at 180 & 186 Ohio Avenue in Tiffin, Ohio. Eventually a small factory was built behind their homes.
Later in the 1920's, Ballreich's installed its first hand slicer at the factory.
Local farmers would deliver 100 lb. burlap bags of potatoes to Carl & Emma's basement for storage. Many weekend family outings included visiting with local farmers to check on their potato crop.
After WWII, Fred's sons, Doyle and Nevin, along with Carl's sons, Owen and Don, and his son-in-law, Robert Reis (who married Carl's daughter Phyllis), joined the business. At this time, the plant was incorporated into Ballreich Bros., Inc. and expanded to a much larger facility in the same location.
As demand continued to grow, sacking machines were added to help chip production reach 450 lbs. per day.
A new warehouse was built in Defiance, Ohio to better service that part of the state. Ballreich's first automatic slicer, salter, hopper filler, and automatic kettle were installed. Liquid shortening was introduced replacing the previous solid form.
In the 1960's, a hydraulic lift was added to the exterior of the plant to unload potatoes more efficiently. An additional warehouse was also built onto the building for storage. A conveyor, hopper, and 3 sacking machines were purchased and installed. Production began heat-sealing bags of potato chips to better preserve their freshness and speed up the chip making process. All peeling equipment was replaced.
A new cooker, slicer, peeler washer, and sacking machine were installed. These and other new equipment allowed chip production to reach 2,000 lbs. of potato chips per hour. That's 8,000 pounds of potatoes and 1,000 pounds of hydrogenated soybean oil each hour!
In the 1980's, a semi auto-loading dock was built. A new sacking machine was purchased and installed to replace our oldest sacking machine.
Smokey Sweet Mesquite and Sour Cream & Onion Marcelled Potato Chips were introduced in the 1990’s. We also expanded our snack line to include party mix, pretzel sticks, pretzel rings, pretzel rods, pork rinds, tortilla chips, cheese popcorn, caramel popcorn with nuts, and triple mix popcorn.
Many new data innovations were brought on board in the 21st century including new software programs, handheld computers for sales representatives, in house graphic design, an IT department, growth in the sales and marketing departments, and much more! Ballreich's also expanded its area of service to Mansfield, Ohio.
We also celebrated the 150th birthday of America's favorite salty snack food, potato chips, by teaming up with other area potato chip manufacturers to create the "World's Largest Bag of Potato Chips" at the Ohio State Fair, a Guinness World Record! A whopping 4,250 lbs. of Ohio potatoes, 710 lbs. of hydrogenated soybean oil, and 80 lbs. of salt were used to make approximately 288,000 individual potato chips all in one bag!
In 2006, Carl's grandson, Brian Reis, and his wife, Linda, became sole owners of Ballreich's after purchasing all of the outstanding shares of Ballreich stock from the other 16 family shareholders of the company. We became the "Official Chip" of the Toledo Mud Hens.
In 2007, Carl's Great-Granddaughter, Haley (Brian & Linda's daughter), joined the family business beginning the 4th generation of Ballreich tradition. We began a partnership with The Ohio State University Campus Dining Center and local grocers in Columbus, Ohio. We created a 2# Value Packs for COSTCO wholesalers. Holiday Baskets were first made available to customers. Gourmet Chocolate Potato Chips, Cheese Puffs and Corn Puffs were introduced. Ballreich's 1# FLAT Fantastic Potato Chips were also added.
In 2008, Ballreich's delivery trucks were given a new look. Dr Gee., former President of The Ohio State University, and Brutus, visited us for a tour and celebration! We were featured in the Movie "Street Kings" with Keanu Reeves, as well as on Rachael Ray’s Cooking Show, and The View with Whoopi Goldberg!
In 2009, our website was updated, we joined Facebook, Twitter, and also became the “Official Chip" of the Lake Erie Crushers, Toledo Walleyes, BGSU Falcons and UT Rockets. We entered the Chicago market servicing Walt's Food Stores.
In 2010, Ballreich’s was awarded the coveted Small Business Administration Family-Owned Business of the Year (Cleveland District) Award. We sent our first international shipment to one of the largest retail chains in Mexico.
In 2011, Carl's Great-Grandson, Robert (Brian & Linda's son), joined Ballreich's as a full-time process manager and engineer after working part-time in high school and college.
In 2012, we met Vice President Joe Biden, US Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost and Mayor Aaron Montz. We also implemented many new processes, controls and procedures for best practice inventory control and accounting including new gas card policies, sales vacation and motor vehicle check policies along with updating several company policies and procedures. We also conducted research on a new ERP system, installed new tanks and tanking system for non-trans fat oils and achieved OU kosher certification. We also executed the sale of a container of potato chips to China.
In 2013, we introduced our sweet potato chips. They were featured on WTOL, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, New Day Cleveland, and Scenic Stop. A partnership was formed for Passover product in the New York market. Modifications to our equipment were made to accommodate sweet potato chips and potato sticks. Process Pro ERP system was selected to further our technological development.
In 2014, Congressman Jim Jordan and US Senator Sherrod Brown toured our facility. Potato Sticks were launched this year. Ballreich’s was selected as the Snack Manufacturer of the year from Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery based on the level of quality, superior customer service and environmental/sustainability practices. Ballreich’s was also selected as the outstanding business of the year from SIEDC for its demonstration of leadership in its field, community involvement, and generous support of local charities and nonprofits. We were featured in Walmart’s “Made in America” campaign and also featured on Walmart TV. New slicer wheels, slicer drive motors, aerial scissor lift, lighting in snack room, lockers, heating and air conditioning in the upper office, epoxy floors upstairs, film on windows, electronic locks on door access to production and a safety platform for machine 7 conveyor are only a few of the improvements made this year.
2015 was a challenging but productive year. Ballreich achieved Safe Quality Food Level 2 Certification, ran sweet potato chips and potato sticks in addition to regular chips, opened Granny Ballreich’s Company Store, and went live with new ERP software. On a more challenging note, we had two fires in our facility. We are happy to say, though, that we came back better and stronger than ever! Muddonna and Hat Trick from the Mudhens and the Walleyes visited the factory. We donated 500 lbs. of chips to the NOAH Foundation which feeds over 3,000 on Christmas Day. We received an Award of Appreciation from the USO of Central and Southern Ohio, Certificate of Achievement from the Columbus Military Processing Station, and an award from Freedoms Front Door for product donation to those who serve our country. This year we generated our first ever employee Christmas Video.
2016 is an exciting year and we will continue to work our hardest to bring you the best product we can. Thank you for your continued support and Keep Eatin’ Those Chips!