Interview with a Vendor: Gary from My Dad’s Chips

1. How would you introduce yourself?

I’m Gary Edell, the Dad of My Dad’s Chips.

2. What is the back-story behind your business?

I started making chips in my kitchen in 2009 — for my kids, as snacks for the house, as small bites for sporting events and neighborhood parties. People started to say, “These are pretty good!” I kept making them for friends and for my family, and I would ship them off to my kids when they were at college. My kids would share them with their friends, and they would always say, “These are my dad’s chips.” I started joking around that if I started a chip company, I would name it that. When my son graduated, he pushed me towards making the business a reality. It took some time to find a manufacturer that would work with our proprietary oil blend and the specific kind of russet potatoes we use, but the rest is history.

3. How has building community helped your business? Do you have a specific example?

The chips began with community! Sharing them amongst people is what brought the business to life. One of the reasons for our success is that we’re a local product that people can recognize. That’s why we have the state of Maryland outlined on our bag. Co-ops like TPSS and so many independent retailers in the Washington area gave us a chance when we were first getting started, specifically because we are a local product.

One of the ways that we try to support our community is through MDC Gives Back, an initiative that we run. A portion of the proceeds of each bag of chips sold goes toward bettering the nutrition of low-income youths, and toward improving the lives of women and children who have been affected by domestic abuse. We really wanted to have a vehicle to help people who are struggling, and to advocate for young children eating healthier and exercising more.

4. Explain how owning a business has changed your life.

I’ve always been entrepreneurial; I’ve had a real estate company since 2011 and I’ve always been an independent contractor. I’ve been used to having my own business as a means to pursue my own way of living! My Dad’s Chips has been different — this business has created so many opportunities to meet new people. Making chips in your house for your family is one thing, but taking them to market and having complete strangers say, “These are the best potato chips I’ve had in my life,” is an incredible experience.

5. What is your relationship to the Co-op? Why did you want to be a vendor here?

We got introduced to the Co-op through Rainforest, our distributor! We came out to do a demo / tasting in the springtime to deepen into connection with the community, and it was amazing. Everyone has been so supportive of the chips, even the Co-op’s cashiers have been telling people to come and eat the chips. We’re coming to table again in October, and we’ve been working more collaboratively with The Common Market in Frederick. Co-ops have been very supportive of the business, and we appreciate it.

6. What is your favorite product, out of all the products you sell?

I lean toward the Original chip flavor, but I have to say that since we started making more flavors, I enjoy every flavor we make. I just had the BBQ with my lunch, when I was watching football this weekend I polished off a 7 oz bag of our Jalapeno Siracha. [interviewer interrupts to say that she loves the French Onion flavor] Really? Oh, you know what’s good? The French Onion flavor dipped in a french onion dip.

We love to make nachos with the chips. Take the Original flavor, put mozzarella on top, put them in the oven at 350 for a bit, take them out and sprinkle them with balsamic glaze. The chips stay really crispy…it’s a wonderful snack. You can also do a spicier chip, like the Jalapeno Siracha, with pepper jack on top and then a hot sauce at the end. Try it out.

7. What would you like to see change in your local food system?

I would like to see prices get less expensive! I’m very new to the food business, but I am aware of the grocery stores with large impact near my home. I live in Gaithersburg, and I have access to a Whole Foods, a Harris Teeter, Giant, Safeway, Lidl, Aldi; the works. I would like to see others have higher access to affordable and healthy foods. I’ve been reading about food deserts in urban and rural areas, and how a community’s lack of a reliable grocery store can lead to nutrition issues. I would just like to see food and nutrition be as accessible as possible. Hopefully, MDC Gives Back can help to make a change.

8. What’s one message you would like to impart to the people reading this?

Our tag line: Change The Way You Chip! Try a different potato chip, experience something different and new.