Chip maker’s move allows it to grow

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Sales have never been a problem for Route 11 Potato Chips. Its lightly salted, hand-cooked chips in a wide variety of flavors are in demand by loyal snackers who gobble up every bag the company produces. The challenge is room for growth.

“We’ve been running at full capacity for a couple of years, so we haven’t been able to take on any new customers,” says President Sarah Cohen. According to her, sales have been steady at $3 million a year. Production, however, should balloon with the com­pany’s recent move to a 25,000-square-foot plant in Mount Jackson. Route 11 Potato Chips formerly operated 30 miles away in a small former feed store on Route 11 in Middletown. The company will complete the transition when it moves its factory store and offices in September.

Cohen, her business partner, Michael Connelly, and their 33 employees are adjusting to the new scale of operation. “We built it to our specs, so it’s brand new and really, really nice,” she says.

In an ironic twist, however, the decision to expand and take on sizable debt may have saved the company from ruin. The snack industry is facing a massive potato shortage. Skyrocketing prices could affect snack-food buying habits.

If the company was still operating in its former quarters, “we would probably already be out of business, so I think we made the transition in the nick of time,” says Cohen. “Fortunately, now that we’re bigger and we’re producing more volume, at least the economy of scale is in our favor. We’ll be fine as long as people don’t stop eating potato chips.”

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