Ballreich’s plans store next to plant

Ballreich’s is planning to open a retail store and museum by mid-December in the house where “Granny Ballreich” once lived.

The store – to be called Granny Ballreich’s – is next to the potato chip plant’s parking lot at 186 Ohio Ave.

“We want to celebrate the whole heritage of that by putting it in her original home,” said Haley Thomas, director of sales and marketing.

She said the family has had a factory store for many years and has been talking about a retail store for at least five years. The house is being remodeled and the rooms are full of furnishings to display products awaiting final decisions and putting it all together.

Historic and nostalgia pieces are to be interwoven with products for sale.

Thomas said the store’s main focus is to be Ballreich’s products, but not the only focus by far.

“Our goal is to take the heritage of Ballriech’s and combine it with the heritage of other locally made products,” she said. “We’re trying to be almost like a museum, like a heritage museum where you can purchase a product.”

In 1920, Fred and Ethel Ballreich opened their homemade potato chip operation in a dirt-floor garage using a copper kettle heated with wood scraps, according to the business history on its website (www.ballreich.

com). It was an all-day process that produced 14 pounds of potato chips. Ballreich’s chose to call their potato chips “marcelled,” which means “wavy,” taken from a popular ladies’ wavy hairstyle of the 1920s.

It wasn’t long before the potato chips were in demand, and Fred’s brother Carl and wife Emma joined the business.

The couples lived side by side at 180 and 186 Ohio Ave., and they eventually built a factory behind their homes where a larger version remains today.

In addition to the section devoted to Ballreich’s-themed products, Thomas said a room is planned to highlight Ohio-made products, another for regional U.S.-made products and still another area for items with a potato theme such as a children’s potato science kit, a potato clock, potato guns and items with a “spuddy” theme.

In another room, visitors can sit down and watch a virtual tour of the potato chip-making process.

Gift baskets are to be available, along with custom pillows made by an Ohio seamstress.

Mike Williams of Blue Island Graphics, an artist native to Ohio, is creating artwork for use in the project, including a mural for one wall.

Jodi McCallum is creating a children’s coloring book with a Ballreich’s theme.

Artwork is to be carried over onto T-shirts and other clothing as well as toys and other products for sale in the store. The children’s theme will continue on sippy cups, bibs and children’s clothing.

In addition to Ohio products, Thomas said, “we may bring in things from Michigan – pottery or ceramics.”

And a room is to be devoted to Catherine’s Collection, high-end collectables created and born in the Cleveland area.

“The guy who runs it now used to work at Disney,” Thomas said. She described the “nostalgic” and “whimsical” items as decorative and highly detailed.

Thomas said the exact state and regional products haven’t been decided yet, but they’ll have an interesting story or history. Items under consideration might include candies, hot sauces, coffees, barbecue sauces, maple syrup, cheeses and dipping oils for breads.