A History of Charles Chips
In 1942, Effie Musser was making a batch of her delicious potato chips in her small rural Pennsylvania kitchen and had a great idea. Si, her husband and farmer by trade, was having difficulties raising enough money to keep them afloat, so she thought of a way to create some additional income. Effie realized that she might be able to take these favorite family treats Effie to the famous Central Market located in Penn Square in historic Lancaster, Pennsylvania and maybe sell a few bags. Founded in 1889 and known for its handmade Amish goods not sold anywhere else, the market is the oldest, continuously operated farmer’s market in the United States. People came from all over the world to sample the food and buy the wares. Soon, the word got out about these amazing potato chips and Effie couldn’t keep up with the demand. Then, a snack distributor from Baltimore, MD contracted Effie for her to deliver her chips in bulk to him. He repacked the bulk chips into his branded tin can and renamed them Charles Chips after Charles St in downtown Baltimore. While the potato chip business started to thrive, his other businesses were not as fortunate. He decided to let the chips fall where they may and avoid bankruptcy. Since Effie was his largest creditor, he chose to sell his assets to her knowing she could keep this brand alive. In fact, under Effie’s eye, the potato chip business was generating more revenue than the farm. Eventually, Si joined Effie in the business and hired a tenant farmer to do the farm chores.
By 1946, production had grown from their small residential kitchen to a 50 foot by 250 foot cement block building. At the time, Si and Effie were producing private label potato chips for Fritos and A&P while building the home delivery concept with Charles Chips.
In the late 50’s, Si and Effie expanded the Charles Chips brand to include Charles Pretzels and Charles Cookies and in the years ahead developed a Christmas Holiday Gift program.
In 1962, a new plant was built in Calhoun, KY to service the mid-west and south.
Charles Chips continued doing home delivery as a mainstay until the early 1970’s when home delivery became less profitable. With falling profits and fewer orders, the company decided that it was time to turn their company into a retail company. They began developing packaging for selling Charles Chips in a retail setting. The chips were then marketed to grocery and convenience stores.
By the late 70’s, Charles Chips began distribution all the way to California.
By 1990, wholesale revenues for the company had exceeded $45 million.
In 1991, Effie Musser and her husband sold Charles Chips to some Philadelphia investors; however, within 18 months the new company went bankrupt.
Charles Chips was then sold to a Tampa, FL popcorn company in 1993, but again this new company also went bankrupt.
Hillside Snacks from Arlington, NJ bought the Charles Chips trademark in 1996, and started to market the potato chips under a new recipe. During this time, the company no longer manufactured potato chips but licensed the brand to several Charles Chips distributors who have been given permission to sell the chips.
The company was all but forgotten about until the Scardino family purchased the company in early 2011. Being true fans of the brand, they wanted to recapture the true essence of Charles Chips and bring back the famous tins filled with all of the original recipes.
Relaunched in December 2011, you can now purchase classic recipes, ORIGINAL, BARBEQUE, WAFFLE, NO SALT, and the Lancaster flavor inspired MINI TWIST PRETZELS. Look for your favorite flavor to be featured as the "CHIP OF the MONTH" which will change monthly. Eventually, Charles Chips will be launching more and more products including CHARLES COOKIES. A whole new generation of Charles Chips Fans will be able to taste the joy that came from Effie's kitchen back in 1942. As we celebrate our 70th Anniversary, look for Charles Chips to be bringing more and more joy in their famous tins!