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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

DAN DEE PRETZEL & POTATO CHIP CO. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

DAN DEE PRETZEL & POTATO CHIP CO., a family-run snack food business for over 70 years that was a major brand throughout Ohio, West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and New York, began in 1913 when childhood friends Harry Albert Orr and Charles V. Pike began manufacturing and distributing pretzels by hand in Braddock, Pennsylvania. The two young men pooled their capital of $214 to finance the operation, making their product by hand and carrying cans of pretzels to their retail outlets. Originally called the West Penn Pretzel Co., denoting their base of operations in the Pittsburgh area, they changed the name to the Cleveland Pretzel Co. after moving the business to Cleveland in 1916. They were located on Hough Ave. not far from LEAGUE PARK, but the company began to make potato chips by 1926, and even for a time egg noodles, at a separate facility on Superior Avenue. After several name changes (Sunshine, Picnic), Pike and Orr settled on the name Dan Dee Pretzel and Potato Chip Co. in 1928, then moved the entire operation to 2900 E. 65th Street. In the late teens they acquired a traveling oven, dough mixers and a rolling machine. In the 1940s, they still employed young women to hand-twist the pretzels, the fastest twisting and traying 30 per minute. In 1945 they merged with Berg's Bretzels of Leetonia, Ohio, the first of many mergers and acquisitions that expanded Dan Dee's market despite the Depression and the shortages of WORLD WAR II. Around 1950, Orr and Pike organized the Empire Pretzel & Potato Chip Co. in Buffalo, New York, to supply western New York with their snack foods. A potato shortage in 1952 led Pike and a buyer, along with their wives, on a potato-buying trip to North Carolina. On the return they were involved in a head-on collision, killing both Mr. and Mrs. Pike and the buyer's wife. Orr continued to run the company, remaining an officer until his death, while also training the younger generation of Pikes and Orrs to run the business. They continued to expand the business, buying a Columbus plant in 1965 (later closed), then in 1981 the Blue Star Potato Chip Co. plant in Cannonsburg, PA. By the early 1980s, the company operated 130 sales routes and posted revenues of $18,000,000, but they had also accumulated large debt, unmanageable overhead, and suffered market erosion because of formidable competition from national firms. In late 1983, Dan Dee filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, continuing to operate their plants in Cleveland, Buffalo, and Cannonsburg during the court-supervised re-organization. Troyer Farms of Waterford, Pennsylvania, a family-run business well-situated to compete with national firms, acquired the company on May 24, 1984, doubling their distribution network. Troyer closed the Cleveland manufacturing facility, but maintained the Dan Dee name, product line and Eastside warehouse, and managed to turn the business around by the end of 1984. In 1953, a Dan Dee delivery truck, made by the WHITE MOTOR CORP. in 1920, was restored in honor of the company's founders. The truck was used extensively for promotional trips before being donated to the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY in 1994.

Last Modified: 28 Sep 1998 11:29:43 AM

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