York PA Chip Factory Story Revealed

I just received a letter from Shirley Gillespie complimenting my Lincoln Highway: Pennsylvania Traveler’s Guide book but noting that I missed the story of a potato chip factory along the route operated by her family. My text mentions a Frito-Lay plant west of York, PA, off Gillespie Drive, but little did I know that the road name was a key to the plant’s heritage. The El-Ge Potato Chip Company was founded in 1937 by Leonard Gillespie, named for his initials. A story in the January 1982 Snack Food trade journal reported that the 105,000-sq-ft factory, built in 1965, could produce 4 tons of chips per hour. By then, Shirley’s husband Bob, a nephew of the founder, was president. Here’s a picture from the Snack Food profile showing Bob and Shirley at the El-Ge plant:
ElGe Chips

Shirley says the family sold to Southland Corporation in 1984, which kept the name, then a succession of owners led to Frito-Lay’s purchase. I’m glad Shirley wrote and preserved an important part of her life and Lincoln Highway history.

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9 thoughts on “York PA Chip Factory Story Revealed

  1. Our son Tom Briggs, grandson of the founder Leonard G. Gillespie found this article and forwarded it.

    I as the daughter of Leonard and Marguerite Gillespie, grew up with the original potato chip factory on College Ave. In 1965 when this plant was built, my father had been gone for seven years, but my mother remained as Chairman of the Board after his death until 1984, unusual for a woman in those days. Bob Gillespie was named President just before my father died of cancer in 1958. The LG plant was family owned for 47 years and was one of the 10 largest priately owned potato chip factories when it was sold to Southland. Joyce Gillespie Briggs

  2. As Marguerite Gillespie’s nephew I was very impressed when she told me in 1964 that whereas all the many previous expansions of the original ElGe plant on Richland Avenue had been financed by cash flow and retained earnings, the new plant would require the first significant borrowing for a major capital expenditure in the company;s history – some $2 million as I recall. This was a bold gamble for a widow approaching 60 years old with no need to risk it all on a completly new greenfield plant. She explained that the long time operating managers had convinced her it was necessary to maintain Elge’s competitive edge and provide for continued growth, and she was doing it in large measure to reward them for their hard work and to give them an opportunity to manage a first class company with a state of the art factory. Pretty gutsy!

  3. As a child I grow up eatiig LG potatoe chips. I was wondering if they still exsist? They were the absolute best!!!

    Please let me know.

    Thank You

  4. I have to agree with Paulette, they were the best bbq chips I ever tasted. Puts todays chips to shame.

  5. These were absolutely THE best bbq chips ever! There are NO chips today that even come close to LG’s wonderful flavor. So sorry they’re no longer being made.

  6. I agree 100% about the chips. I was a little girl in Vintondale, Pennsylvania, and remember a big treat for me was eating a bag of LG potato chips and having a soda (in a bottle, of course) with my dad on Saturday night while he watched boxing and baseball on tv. I treasure those memories. Thanks LG.
    Dar

  7. MY UNCLE SAM GILLESPIE WAS A BROTHER TO LEONARD GILLESPIE I ALSO REMEMBER EATING EG POTOTOES CHIPS OUT OF THE BIG TIN CAN.WHAT A TREAT.MY MOTHERS SISTER AUNT VIOLA WAS MARRIED TO SAM GILLESPIE HE WAS A WONDERFUL KIND PERSON PAT DEAN CHARLOTTESVILLE VA

  8. I miss the old LG barbeque potato chips. They were my favorite as a little girl. I had given up on finding a chip that tasted as good until recently I tried the UTZ Honey Barbeque chips. I think they run a close second to LG.

  9. I loved LG barbeque chips. They were almost red with powder. I would eat them on top of whatever sandwich I had. We got them at the small corner stores here in Baltimore. They were the best ever! Utz is my favorite regular chip, But nothing beat LG Barbecue!

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