PARKERSBURG - Mister Bee Potato Chip Co. has resumed production.
At 11:30 a.m. Monday, potato chips began rolling off the conveyor belt again after a six-month shutdown.
Production had stopped on Oct. 31, 2011, and Mister Bee filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November.
Photo by Paul LaPann
Patty Fortney places bags of potato chips into a box in the packaging section of Mister Bee’s plant in Parkersburg.
Potato chip deliveries will begin Friday to stores such as Wal-Mart, Kroger and Foodland, said Christie Mallett, who was named Mister Bee president in April.
"We can't hit all the accounts on Friday so we will be working on the weekend" to fill store orders, Mallett said Monday.
A private investor, who wants to remain anonymous, provided money for Mister Bee to relaunch West Virginia's only potato chip manufacturer. The company, which was founded in 1951, has undergone an organizational restructuring and is incorporating a "manufacturing culture" that focuses on being efficient and effective to grow and improve production, Mallett said.
Fans of Mister Bee potato chips, along with company employees and officials, have been anticipating the restart of production for several weeks at 512 West Virginia Ave.
A shipment of premium Atlantic potatoes from Florida arrived on Sunday and the cooking oil came in Monday morning, Mallett said.
At the start of operations, Mister Bee will be using 20,000 to 22,000 pounds of potatoes a day, Mallett said.
Most of the people who worked at the company have returned to their jobs. More than 30 people are employed at the plant and in sales and delivery capacities, Mallett said.
Mallett anticipates growing the business in the company's sales region of West Virginia, southeast Ohio and eastern Kentucky and to areas outside the Tri-State. She said she hopes to increase employment at Mister Bee.
Mister Bee is producing barbecue, sour cream and onion, dip style, original and no salt potato chips. A healthy product line is planned for the future, Mallett said.
The recipe and process for making Mister Bee chips are not changing, Mallett said.
Patty Fortney, who has worked at Mister Bee Potato Chip Co. for 30 years, said Monday she was glad to be back working in the packaging department.
Paul Deems, a Mister Bee employee for 14 years, also was happy to resume working in the packaging department.
"This is just like home," Deems said of Mister Bee. "I like it here. It is good to be back."
Store managers have been asking the potato chip company when it planned to resume production.
Their customers have been inquiring about when Mister Bee chips would be reappearing on store shelves, Mallett said.