Day 249: Great Lakes Potato Chip Company

Great Lakes Potato Chip Company
Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Potato Chip Company

“Welcome to Chip Nirvana.” With a slogan as bold as that, it was imperative that I investigated the wondrous chips behind Great Lakes Potato Chip Company.

These delightful chips are made in Traverse City, where Ed Girrbach and his son Chris are co-owners. In addition, these gentlemen own the ever so famous Pangea’s Pizza, also located in Traverse City. After Pangea’s was successfully underway, Ed and Chris started wondering what to do next. Chris asked his father, “Dad, what do you like?” To which Ed responded, “Well, besides pizza and doughnuts, I like potato chips.” And then began the creation of Great Lakes Potato Chip Company. These kettle-cooked chips are sold throughout grocery stores, markets, restaurants, and cafes all around the Great Lakes State.

Great Lakes Potato Chip Company
Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Potato Chip Company

Cooked in 100% sunflower oil, these chips come in three different varieties. The original are thickly cut, and seasoned with fresh sea salt. The barbecue is a bit tangy and somewhat smokey, best consumed at a summertime picnic, or if you need something to do while you wait for picnic season to start. Sea salt and vinegar boasts the ability to capture the essence of our “vast, inland seas.” And that is exactly what it does. The flavor of this chip will make you long for a boat trip on our beautiful great lakes. A new tortilla chip is now available in stores as well. The potato chips are all made with the skin on to add an extra punch in the flavor. Ed mentioned the nutritional benefits to leaving the skin on, but in reality, he says it’s the flavor that matters most. I couldn’t help but agree.

The Sackett Potato Farmin Mecosta, Michigan provides all the poundage of potatoes that goes into these chips. Chris personally drives down to Mecosta every week to pick up the 5,000 pounds of potatoes required to create the different varieties of chips produced. The Girrbach duo chose Sackett Potatoes after doing extensive research on potato farms in Michigan. Ed says, “Sackett Potatoes is a world class farming operation, producing some of the best chipping potatoes in the country.” That, combined with Brian Sackett’s helpful demeanor and immediate support, made it easy for the Girrbachs to choose this specific potato farm.

Great Lakes Potato Chip Company
Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Potato Chip Company

With help from Ed’s wife, Phyllis, and his oldest son, Fritz, Ed and Chris currently employ six people at Great Lakes Potato Chips Company, with two or three more being hired within the next month. Ed and Chris chose to use Traverse City’s Green Light Marketing in order to help with marketing and sales. When making this product, they wanted to sell more than a chip, but also an area and a feel. The unique Michigan labels on the packages portray a sense of pride for our fabulous mitten state and Great Lakes Potato Chips are quickly being labeled as, “The Michigan Chip.”

When I asked Ed if doughnuts were going to be his next Michigan-made product, he replied, “It would be, except that Phyllis would kill me if I started another business.” This is perfectly understandable, because with how delicious these chips are, it is clear that Ed and Chris spend some quality time in the creation of them.
~Jennifer Hamilton, Feature Writer