Mister Bee potato chips packaging

    The smell of Mister Bee potato chips is again filling the air around the West Virginia Potato Chip Co. on West Virginia Avenue in Parkersburg.

    The company bought a new fryer for $1.1 million and spent another $1.5 million to upgrade the manufacturing side of the building, said Randall Holden, president of the West Virginia Potato Chip Co. that manufactures Mister Bee.

    "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."

    Mister Bee is the only potato chips made in West Virginia.

    "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."

    In late April the company chose to shut down operations and renovate the production end of the building following a fire in the cooker.

    "The fire caused more damage than we let the public know,"said Holden. "We didn't want people to think we were finished, but within a week we had fresh product on store shelves thanks to another potato chip company allowing us to use their facilities."

    For the past three months the Mister Bee brand of potato chip has been produced by Jones Potato Chips in Mansfield, Ohio, using the same oil, potatoes and other ingredients used in the local facility.

    "When we acquired the business a year-and-a-half ago, we looked into expanding the distribution of the products and realized it was not feasible to do internally,"Holden said. "But, with the help of another company, we are able to move into other parts of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky."

    The other company is Snyder's of Hanover, a Pennsylvania-based snack company that specializes in pretzels. Holden said representatives for the bakery approached the West Virginia Potato Chip Co. a few months ago with the intent of working with the Mister Bee brand.

    "We recently signed a distribution contract with Snyder's of Hanover and shipped our first product to them for distribution throughout West Virginia and new areas of Ohio and Kentucky in September,"Holden said.

    This joint venture will put the Mister Bee product line on the shelves of many stores that already include Snyder's of Hanover. These include larger discount and grocery stores throughout West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky with the possibility of more growth.