OK Potato Chips Returns to Akron as Hartville Potato Chips
by Noor Hindi
Anthony LaGuardia fondly remembers walking into his family’s OK Potato Chip Factory and watching his favorite snack move through the conveyor belt. As a kid, his fingers were always salty, and he’ll never forget the smell of the potato chips, hot off the fryer.
“I have fleeting memories. I just remember walking through and how awesome it was seeing all the potato chips and popcorn and being able to grab whatever I wanted.”
The business was owned by Anthony’s cousin, Ted Robb. It was located in Kenmore, moved to Barberton, then sold 27 years ago. Despite this, many Akronites still remember the taste of OK Potato Chips and the enticing smell of the factory.
“I’ll never forget the taste” says Anthony. “Ted and I will never forget. And there’s a huge community here in the area that remembers the chips.”
Kids, especially, loved visiting the factory after school and buying a bucket of potato chips for the way home. It’s these memories that have inspired Anthony and his brother, Paul LaGuardia, and Ted to reopen the family owned business, renaming it Hartville Potato Chips.
Customers will soon be able to walk into the factory, which is located on 1064 Grant Street, and purchase potato chips.
“Nothing is like a potato chip right out of the fryer,” says Paul. “It’s so much better. And people will be able to experience that and they’ll be able to see where their potato chip is coming from as well.”
Hartville Potato Chips will be Akron’s only potato chip company. Anthony, Paul and Ted have been making and sampling different potato chips in an effort to match the taste of the OK Potato Chips everyone loved years ago.
“We’re trying to get as close to the past as possible,” says Ted. “We’ve researched considerably to find as close a flavor as we can possibly find. And it’s really, really close. You can’t tell the difference.”
Aside from taste testing the chips, Ted has been walking Anthony and Paul through the process of making a potato chip, from storing potatoes to using the equipment required to make the chips. Ted spent years travelling the world after he sold OK Potato Chips, helping people in many countries like China, Argentina, Japan and Jamaica start their own potato chip companies.
Both Anthony and Paul have always wanted to start a business in the South Akron neighborhood. They both grew up in Akron, with Paul attending The University of Akron to play soccer. Their dad, John LaGuardia, was the vice president of The University of Akron and grew up in South Akron, along with Ted.
Anthony, Paul and Ted feel grateful for the South Akron community for embracing them. Years ago, when Klein Seafood was just opening up, Anthony and Paul’s grandfather allowed them to use the facility for free until they turned a profit.
Klein is now returning the favor by helping Anthony, Paul and Ted focus on starting Hartville Potato Chips without worrying about rent.
“We both think Akron’s our home,” says Anthony. “Klein’s gave us the same opportunity that our grandfather gave them and we could not have done this without Klein’s.”
Because of the effort that goes into making the potato chips, Anthony likes comparing their potato chips to craft beers. Typically, larger potato chip companies can make about 6,000 pounds of chips an hour. For Hartville Potato Chips, the smaller operation will be making the kettle-cooked chips with a more care and effort.
The three men can’t wait to open the factory up to the community. Currently, the chips are being sold at the Thirsty Dog Brewing Company tasting room and Shaffers Market.
Anthony, Paul and Ted are excited about what’s ahead for both Akron and Hartville Potato Chips. They’re also looking forward to working together as a family.
“It’s family owned, family operated and family oriented,” says Ted.
Keep up with Hartville Potato Chips by visiting their Facebook @HartvillePotatoChips.
Noor ate her weight in potato chips while writing this article. Sometimes, Noor wishes she were a potato chip.