Mikesell’s ending 110-plus years of local business

Famed Dayton potato chip company is seeking to sell to another company as soon as possible.

Mikesell’s, a historic Dayton maker of potato chips and snack foods, is going out of business.

The company announced Wednesday that it hopes to sell its brand and intellectual property rights to another snack food manufacturer to potentially continue the Mikesell’s brand.

But the company said it “is beginning to wind down its manufacturing, distribution, and administrative operations to proceed with an orderly liquidation of its assets.”

Earlier this week, as rumors swirled, company President Luke Mapp referred questions about his company’s future to its public relations firm.

A spokeswoman for the company said no interviews or further information will be offered, although on social media, the company acknowledged that 65 employees are affected.

Some people who said they are Mikesell’s employees posted on social media this week that the Dayton plant will close this month.

“To continue to protect the Mikesell’s brand, so it can remain viable in the market and continue to move forward, Mikesell’s is announcing that it intends to transition all Mikesell’s brand and IP rights to another quality snack food manufacturer, as soon as possible,” the company said in a statement.

“The exact timeline remains uncertain. Accordingly, Mike-Sell’s Inc. is beginning to wind-down its manufacturing, distribution, and administrative operations to proceed with an orderly liquidation of its assets. The liquidation of its assets will begin immediately and continue over the next several months.

“Although the terms have not yet been finalized, we understand the desire to keep products available, and are working to facilitate the necessary conversations for approvals that will allow for an uninterrupted supply of Mikesell’s products.”

Mapp said the company and executives “wish to thank the community, consumers and partners for their love and support over the past 112+ years. Our family will long remember the fan love, the friendships and the wins along the way the most.”

Mikesell’s describes itself as the oldest continuously run family-owned potato chip company in the nation, operating since 1910.

Like all businesses, the company has faced challenges linked to recent inflation. But this latest bout — fueled by pandemic-strained global supply chain problems, war in Europe and more — has been pronounced.

“These are incredibly difficult times,” Mapp told this news outlet in a December interview. “Mikesell’s is facing those challenges along with every other business out there.”

Mapp said at the time that his company faced a trio of problems, some of them long-standing: inflation, retiree pension liabilities and retail product placement trends.

The company’s board of directors named Mapp president in March 2020 at the cusp of the pandemic. COVID-19 had a huge impact on employment, for Mikesell’s and every other company.

And the retail market continues to change. At one time, food producers could deal with grocery store managers directly. Today, groceries are more likely to defer to corporate decision-making, which is often shaped by software that determines which products to put front and center before customers or on shelves.

“Centralized buying” based on “big data” now determines which brands to showcase and at what price, Mapp told this news outlet.

But those software algorithms — or “planograms” — don’t touch on local service, a national brand’s rebate programs or price advantages, he said.

“We had the ability to go into a ... store here and develop a relationship with that store manager,” said Mapp, who started his career as a sales analyst. “That’s how Mikesell’s built its brand.

“The ability to do that has basically been taken away.”

The company traces its origin back to 1910, when D.W. Mikesell and his wife operated a business selling dried beef and sausages from two rooms on South Williams Street in Dayton.

“Then came the opportunity to buy some potato chip equipment and the Mikesell’s Potato Chip Company was born,” the company says on its web site.

Asked in December about the company’s future, Mapp said: “I’d like nothing more than to keep it going another 110 years.”

Mikesell’s has outsourced most of its distribution work to independent distributors, but the company still had 10 to 15 company vehicles delivering snack foods — chips of various flavors, pretzels and puff corn — on eight remaining company routes as of early December. The company also had three over-the-road long-haul tractor trailers.

A decade ago, the company closed three Ohio distribution facilities, eliminating about 40 jobs, it said at the time.

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