Hello Mr. Chips: OH! Chips and Brian “Thor” Thornton
Posted by cmh gourmand on July 20, 2014
Have you ever been present at the moment of something big? Were you one of 20 people who saw Nirvana play at Staches during a blizzard when they toured from a van or did you see the rise of the Phoenix that is LeaderOptics? For me, as a compulsively creative idea brainstormer, there are few things better than seeing the light bulb go off in someone’s head and then watch what happens. I’ve been following the growth of OH! Chips for almost three years now and it has been a fun ride.
I met Brian “Thor” Thornton when I was working for a food business incubator called Food Fort. Brian was of the mind to buy a food truck and he was just wrapping up his business plan when I met him. At the time (fall 2011) there was only one truck on the market, The Hot Pita Food Truck (RIP) which I had looked over and did not think much of what I saw. That did not dissuade Thor, he saw where he could make adjustments and modifications and even though the truck was far from perfect it was the vehicle he could use to launch his business and he was ready to go. So in typical Thor fashion, the gap between thought and action was nearly unmeasurable.
Once he had the truck in development, he started working on recipes and that is where I came to know him much better. I am certain for the first two years of his OH! Burger food truck, I sampled any menu item he developed. And he and I talked about, debated and conceived a lot of neat new concepts along the way (The $1 Dollar Hollar Hot Dog sandwich for a late night menu comes to mind – Thor thought better of that) that were just too wrong to unleash on the public. I even had Thor talked in to donuts for a while.
There were a lot of adventures along the way, I wrote about one of them (see the link below).
Between burgers, Thor was always working on a tweaking recipes for potato and sweet potato chips. I’m sure on the fist couple months of OH! Burgers I sampled a slightly different version of a chip (potato type, different oils, etc.) It was always in Thor’s vision for the chips to be a signature item on his truck menu (they were and still are) but I don’t think a week went by where he did not tweak or experiment with the process in some way. I was there the day he decided he had finally made the perfect chip and having tried one, I was inclined to agree with him. The popularity of the chips was instant and sometimes overshadowed his own burgers. So in typical Thor fashion the process of thought to action to make the chips their own business was put on fast forward in a flash.
So let’s bring you up to date. It has been a big year for OH! Chips. With a lot of hard work and a small business loan, he secured a space for a factory in a former food cart commissary (appropriately enough) and may have the space in full production around Labor Day. In the meantime he has continued to labor on his food truck and the factory and well as all of the many things that need to happen between making batches of chips to grow the business from 100’s of bags to 1000’s.
The business began to expand with partnering by other food trucks to sell his chips both as is and with customized spice mixes. Here is where you can find the chips now.
Actual Brewing Company
Ajumana (Food Truck)
Blu Olive (Food Truck)
Catawba Island Brewing Company
Four String Brewing Company
Kenny’s Meat Wagon (Food Cart)
North High Brewing Company
The Ohio Tap Room
Pam’s Market Popcorn
Strongwater Food and Spirits
You may have noticed a trend in there – Breweries and beer based businesses. You have read here before that craft breweries and food trucks are the perfect pairing. That partnership potential applies to other small businesses as well. Taprooms benefit from good food and great chips go well with beer.
What makes these potato chips so good? A couple little things add up to a big difference in taste and quality. OH! Chips are hand crafted in small batches. The potatoes are thinly sliced then blanched before being fried in peanut oil then lightly seasoned with sea salt. This might not sound like much but the reason why so many people crave these chips is because the extra labor that goes into the chips and because they are fresh.
I think there has been a pent-up demand for good potato chips. Many years ago, Ohio had many more local potato chips companies than today but most were eaten up by the big guys. If you have friends from other parts of Ohio you may be familiar with names like Mike-Sells, Grippos, Ballreich’s, Gold n Crisp, Jones, Mumford’s, Tastee, Schearer’s, Wagner’s and more. I remember Buckeye Potato Chips as a kid and if my memory serves me right, they seemed to be the only potato chip in the world. We still have a lot of Ohio based chips to choose from today and our heritage supports that. While “Saratoga Chips” were invented in New York, it was Ohio where they went big fast. Ohio was home to the first trade association of potato chip makers. So with that in our collective DNA, it is the priming of the pump to want to eat and support the first new local potato chip maker in my lifetime. I’m glad I was around to see OH! Chips get born and I look forward to watching the company mature.
If all goes to plan, by the end of the year you will see the chips some more locations (probably Weilands). In the meantime find them (or ask for them) at a local brewery, The Ohio Tap Room or select food trucks while we wait for more of a good thing.