GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some new chips hitting the shelves at stores statewide looked and tasted familiar to those who remember the dubious history of the now-defunct Charley’s Chips. But Hippie’s Chippies have a totally different story.
In May, citing filthy conditions at the Wyoming manufacturing site for Charley’s Chips, the Michigan Department of Agriculture asked stores to remove them from the shelves. Despite assurances from the owner that the chips were safe to eat, the chips never returned to stores. The former burger stand where they were made is now empty and in disrepair.
Now shoppers might come across Hippie’s Chippies, which have a similar look and flavor.
“We’re doing it the right way,” Hippie’s Chippies co-owner Linda Nash promised. “We’ve got a co-packer. It’s all licensed. All of the ingredients, everything, is so closely monitored.”
She led the women’s basketball program at Aquinas College before retiring this year as one of the winningest coaches in women’s basketball.
“I went from being a head basketball coach at Aquinas College for 23 years to a title called ‘Aunt Chip-Chip,’ so I think it’s been a promotion for me,” she joked.
She joined up with her niece, Melissa Pupis, who years ago worked sales for Charley’s Chips.
“My whole life has been about peace, love and happiness so when Melissa approached me and said ‘Hippie’s Chippies.’ I was like, ‘This is meant to be,'” Nash said.
They acknowledged the similarities between their chips and Charley’s.
“Similar flavor profile, perhaps. To be honest, we like ours a little better,” Pupis said.
Hippie’s Chippies are being made by Grand Rapids-based Festida Foods, a big-time snack manufacturer that makes a number of products sold nationwide, including On The Border tortilla chips and dips.
“I never in a million years realized what went into making a tortilla chip,” Nash said. “It’s very scientific. I was pretty much blown away. I had no idea what goes into it.”
They are happy to tell you what they think makes their product so good.
“We say on the bag, ‘They’re psychedelically sweet and savory.’ I think they’re great with a salsa, an artichoke dip, chips and cheese guacamole, they’re really good. We’ve gotten great response,” Nash and Pupis explained together.
They have been able to get their chips in several stores from the Upper Peninsula to Grosse Pointe, including Horrocks, Kingma’s and the biggest get so far, SpartanNash, which operates more than 150 stores.
Customers are liking the chips, said Lee Oppenheimer of Ken’s Fruit Market on Plainfield Avenue NE.
“We’ve done really well with it so far. We’ve had it just over a month, probably reordered two or three times now,” he said.
He said he has heard from people who wondered if it was the return of Charley’s.
“I’ve told them, if you have had Charley’s before, I said, you’re really going to like this product because it’s better,” Oppenheimer said. “Packaging is much better, quality is better. It’s just a totally different product.”
The owners of Hippie’s say the sky’s the limit.
“We’re not limiting ourselves. We’re just going to see where it takes us,” Nash said.
“Who knows, maybe we’ll see Hippie’s Dippies. Who knows?” Pupis said.
They said they have a meeting coming up soon with Meijer, which could really put them on the map.