Why Is There A Giant Potato Chip Cannister in Portland, MI?
One of my unique hobbies is seeking out oversized food and food-like statues. I call it "unique" but you may call it "weird"-- that's fair! It all started with an obsession over the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile but has grown to include the Planter's Nutmobile, Big Idaho Potato, and of course Kalamazoo's famous Big Banana Car.
I've found oversized foods in New Mexico, Missouri, and Nebraska and now I'm finally exploring my own backyard to find giant foods all over the Mitten. My latest adventures took me out to the Danby Township area near Portland, MI to see a giant potato chip cannister!
New Era Potato Chips
I recently learned the Detroit-area was once widely known as a mecca of potato chip production-- hence brands like Better Made and Uncle Ray's. At one time there were nearly 20 potato chip companies in the Detroit area.
Among those 20 companies was New Era Potato Chips, founded by Nicolay-Dancey Inc. I can only imagine what the chip competition was like back in those days. In the 1930s New Era was reportedly Better Made's fiercest competitor.
Branded as a "healthful food" that was "scientifically processed" New Era saw much success and by the 1950s the company operated 3 factories in Chicago, Ohio, and Pittsburgh and their chips were distributed in several states across the U.S. Eventually the company was acquired by Frito, who was then absorbed by Lay's. Over time Lay's dropped the "New Era" branding from its name and it was simply called "Lay's Potato Chips".
Giant Chip Cannister
As an homage to Detroit's bustling potato chip days, the owners of this property outside of Portland have decided to turn an average looking silo into anything but! According to the Portland Beacon the original silo was built in the 1940s by Isadore Shrauben to store feed for the farm.
According to his son Dewey, Isadore was offered an annual sum of $99 a year to paint the silo to advertise New Era's potato chip brand. Eventually the company stopped paying the family and there were several attempts to paint over the design, but in 2005 the family decided to bring back it's original design. Reports the Beacon,
It hasn’t been torn down for its sake of being a cherished building that has been around for a long time. It is a well-known building and carries many memories and reminders for anyone in connection with it including the Shrauben family and now Chris Smith who is the current owner.
It's such a unique landmark and ode to Michigan's past, I hope Chris and future owners never decide to repaint the silo so it's around for generations to come! Directions to the silo can be found here.