JobsOhio sues Mikesell’s, former Dayton potato chip maker

Mikesell’s, the historic Dayton maker of potato chips and snack foods that went out of business and sold rights to another Ohio company, is accused of breaching its JobsOhio grant agreement.

JobsOhio, the state’s nonprofit organization that works to bring job creation and new capital investment in Ohio, filed a lawsuit on Nov. 10 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

In exchange for a $25,000 grant, Mikesell’s and JobsOhio on April 1, 2021, entered into an agreement that required Mikesell’s to create four new jobs at its 333 Leo St. location in Dayton with a payroll of at least $166,400, to retain 72 existing jobs with a payroll of at least $3.65 million and to make a fixed asset investment of $200,000 by Dec. 31, 2023, according to the civil suit.

Mikesell’s violated the agreement by ceasing operations, and JobsOhio issued a letter dated June 15 demanding repayment of the $25,000 in grant funds due within 30 days, the lawsuit stated.

“JobsOhio demands judgment against defendant in the amount of $25,000, plus interest, including prejudgment interest, reasonable attorney fees, costs, and expenses, and such other relief as the court may deem appropriate,” the lawsuit states.

Mikesell’s announced Feb. 1 that it was going out of business. In operation since 1910, Mikesell’s described itself as the oldest continuously run family-owned potato chip company in the nation, founded by D.W. Mikesell and his wife who first operated a business selling dried beef and sausages from two rooms on South Williams Street in Dayton.

Luke Mapp, the last president of Mikesell’s, more than hinted last December at apparently insurmountable challenges caused by inflation pushing up prices for potatoes and oil along with myriad other costs, supply-chain issues and “big data” corporate software that determines which products to put front and center on store shelves, often to the detriment of local brands.

“We have found ourselves in an incredibly interesting time,” Mapp said in an interview at the company’s Leo Street headquarters and plant. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life or my career, quite frankly.”

Zanesville snack food manufacturer Conn’s Potato Chip Co., established in 1935, bought Mikesell’s brand rights. Using decades old recipes, Conn’s brought back the beloved Mikesell’s potato chips and puffcorn items to store shelves across the region.

No attorney on record was listed for Mikesell’s, and the company’s former business line is no longer in service.

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