Cashing in on the chips – Chumpies Potato Chips

Cashing in on the chips – Chumpies Potato Chips – Company Profile

Lloyd Gite

Jerry T. Ridgley is not like most entrepreneurs. As the CEO of a 2-year-old Philadelphia potato chip distributor, Ridgley–like all business owners–wants to make money. But unlike other company chieftains, Ridgley has another agenda.

“Our streets are under siege from drug dealers,” says the co-owner of Chumpies Home Boys and Home Girls Distributing Co., which sells Chumpies Potato Chips. “I want to show our kids that is not the way to go.”

Ridgley and his partner, Samir Muhammad, are doing that by printing antidrug messages on the backs of their potato chip bags. “Not enough black males in my age group have stood up and said ‘Stop it,'” notes the 38-year-old Ridgley, a former cocaine user who says he’s been straight for three years.

Adds Muhammad, the company’s 44-year-old president: “We call them chips with a message. We take a quarter out of a kid’s pocket. But we also put something in their minds.”

The chips are sold in more than a dozen areas including Los Angeles, New York, Illinois, Florida and Pennsylvania, and sell for 25 and 99 cents. The chips come in eight flavors, including Chumpies Chili-Cheese and Home Girls Sour Cream.

Although Home Boys and Home Girls Distributing was launched in 1990 with $100,000 raised from three investors, Chumpies didn’t hit the supermarket shelves until Halloween day 1991. By the end of the year, sales for the 15-employee company were $500,000. Currently, 90,000 cases are shipped every month in Philadelphia alone.

Ridgley, who formerly owned Don Pepe’s Potato Chip Co. before it went out of business in 1990, plans to expand into other snack food areas. Notes Muhammad: “African-Americans spend $7 billion on snack foods a year, and we want a large share of those dollars.”

COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group