Category Archives: Jell-Craft History

  • -

House was home to handmade chip factory

Category : Jell-Craft History

October 4, 2014 Updated: October 4, 2014 10:50pm

The Bluebonnet Potato Chip Co. made and sold chips and drink bases for more than half a century. Photo: Photo Courtesy Of Anita Valencia

Photo: Photo Courtesy Of Anita Valencia
SAN ANTONIO — Attached is a photo of a house at the corner of Cincinnati Avenue and Sabinas Street. Although the house looks abandoned and overgrown with vegetation, the Bluebonnet Potato Chip Co. sign remains. When I was growing up in the early 1940s, my father had a grocery store, and there was a salesman who delivered Bluebonnet Potato Chips and gallons of Hawaiian Punch. I seem to remember going once to pick up an order for our store. Is it possible this was the place? Incidentally, I remember the chips as being crispy and so tasty, nothing has come close to them in taste.

— Anita Valencia

During the first half of the 20th century, before the building of interstate highways, many food products were manufactured and sold regionally. These were unique brands, not found in other parts of the country, and most would give way to nationally produced or franchised brands, more efficiently marketed and distributed.

There’s a glimpse of small-world grocery sales in an advertisement for a Solo-Serve “Sale of Progress and Manufacturer’s Exposition” published in the San Antonio Light, June 9, 1938. The discount retailer promised sample packages of Bluebonnet Potato Chips as well as Mexican foods at the Gebhardt Chili Powder booth, “tasty cakes” from the Brown Cracker and Candy Co., “special treats” from Pioneer Flour Mills and servings of Aviation Coffee — all made by companies headquartered in San Antonio.

The house with the Bluebonnet sign was where the chips and beverage bases were made, says Carmen Oertling Mason, daughter of Walter Oertling, who owned and ran the company from 1945 until shortly before his death in 1979. The company did not sell Hawaiian Punch but manufactured and sold its own brands of punch and fruit-drink bases.

Why chips and drinks? Besides the obvious synergy, Mason says that’s what the company was making before her father bought it. Oertling graduated from Louisiana State University with a master’s degree in chemistry during the Great Depression. Finding it impossible to get a job in his field, he went on the road as a representative of the California Fruit Growers Exchange. The original company was one he called on, presumably to sell fruit extracts for the beverage bases. When the owners wanted to sell, Oertling bought them out. Mason says it’s her understanding he “tweaked” the original company’s formulas over the years, adding new flavors as the beverage line expanded.

Mary Son, who was married to Oertling’s late son Bob, says she was told the building on Cincinnati “was never a home (and) was originally built for a dry cleaner’s.” When it went out of business, the property was purchased by the founder of the Bluebonnet Potato Chip Co. As the second owner, Oertling later purchased adjacent buildings to serve as warehouses; his family home was around the corner on West Ashby Place.

The corner building on Cincinnati served as office, factory and retail shop, where neighborhood children could stop in to buy a snack. The Oertling children spent a lot of time there, especially in the room where the potatoes were kept. “We liked to climb around on the bags,” Mason says. “We weren’t supposed to, but it was the only room with air conditioning.”

The company produced a line of Carmen’s Chips, named after the owner’s wife and daughter. If the chips were still being made, they could command a premium price as an artisanal, locally sourced product. Oertling bought his potatoes from area farmers, most among the Belgian-American truck-farming community. The company had peeling and slicing machines, but everything else was done by hand. Workers dipped baskets of thinly sliced potatoes into large fryers to cook, turned them out onto a table, salted them and put the finished chips into bags. They came out “somewhere between a Lay’s and a Kettle (potato chip) in color,” says Mason.

The company also made corn chips, including what might have been the first chili-flavored chips, and held the franchise to make and sell Rold Gold pretzels in this area, and added raspa (snow-cone) syrups to its beverage side. By the early 1980s, the chips had been discontinued because of competition from national brands and the company focused on its drink bases. After Walter Oertling’s death, his widow ran the business for 10 more years. Their sons Bob — who died in 1991 — and Jim took over successively. When the latter decided to close the company in 1997, former in-law Mary and her second husband, Tim Son, bought it.

The building on Cincinnati already had been sold, says Mary Son, and the new owner didn’t “make the necessary repairs for us to remain operational in that location.” The Son Beverage Co. moved in 1999 to a location on Oaklawn Drive off Fredericksburg Road and in 2009 relocated to Alamo Downs Industrial Park. The company still makes the Jell-Craft line of punch bases as well as concentrates for aguas frescas, cocktails and frozen drinks, slushes and granitas, teas and coffee flavorings.

The chips, sadly, can’t come back. The recipe was not in the formula book the Sons inherited when they purchased the company, says Mary Son, nor was it found in the archived papers of the old company.


What others are saying…

  • Delicous flavor but can be a bit overpowering. It tastes like a mixture between strawberry and watermelon, in my opinion. When mixed with something a little more sour (like the sal y limon flavor) it tastes really good. I would recommend this as an expansion of syrups that are provided (growing popular). Sour Power
    Ace Mart customer

certifications

F
F
Twitter
jellcraft on Twitter
69 people follow jellcraft
Twitter Pic GulfPrin Twitter Pic xingtaim Twitter Pic chocolat Twitter Pic mySuppli Twitter Pic twang_of Twitter Pic EmergeAs Twitter Pic sabugs1 Twitter Pic foodtruc
F
F
F
F
pinterest button
F
jellcraftproducts
197
 Photos
105
 Followers
71
 Following
HELP US! Name this Kid’s Drink for grocery shelves! All entries on our #Facebook page will be entered to win Schlitterbahn New Braunfels tickets. 
#Spinners #Beverages #Drinks #Kids #ChildrenDrinks #HEB #Walmart #Kiddos #Parents #Fun #Twisters #Tornadoes #Shakers #Glitter #Slushes #SlushHere’s to @chickfila ‪#‎CowAppreciation‬ Day! We have participated in this event as a company for many years, and enjoy dressing as cows! Who wouldn’t? Share your photo if you participate too! #ChickfilA ‪#CowDay #moo #cow #employee #employeeappreciation #lunchtime #lunch #yumAttn Valley Customers: Henry's Party Supply & Food Service is one of our most loyal and longest customers, and has a large selection of Jell-Craft products including SUGAR FREE Snow cone syrups! Here is Henry Sr. with our owners at our company’s 70th anniversary party last year. They are located in at 715 South Lewis Lane in Harlingen! #SnowConeSyrups #JellCraft #CustomerLoyalty #SnoCones #SugarFreeSnoCones #Texas #Valley #Harlingen #Beach #SouthPadreIslandYesterday we had our annual cheers of Schilo’s root beer during our employee appreciation lunch for our team at @schilosdeli ! It was a bitter sweet this time since we said farewell to Debbie Hahn, the General Manager at Schilo’s whom we have worked with for the past 20 years, and wished her a Happy Retirement! We have enjoyed working with her over the years and wish her all the best! #Rootbeer #EmployeeCelebration #TeamLunch #Lunch #Cheers #RetirementIn honor of the 4th of July being 1 week away, we want to give you a refreshing drink recipe to make at an economical price! Check out our blog - http://ow.ly/Vg0f301GCXE on what you need to make Peach Tea! We’ll post another delicious recipe later this week #SummerHeat #BeverageRefresher #PeachTea #Beverage #FourthofJuly #July4th  #JellCraft #peach #jellcraftproducts #jellcraftThese kiddos enjoy eating delicious #Raspas to help them stay cool in the San Antonio summer heat! What is your favorite thing to eat to help keep you cool in the summer? #SnowCones #SATX #SanAntonio #Summer #Heat #Hot #SnoCones #JellCraft #FirstDayofSummerHappy Father’s Day! Have you already given your dad this special gift? #FathersDay #HappyFathersDay #FathersDay2016 #Grandchildren #Funny #LOLThis sweet family drove in from Mexico to come to our facility and buy our products for their restaurant! Customers like them is what makes us LOVE what we do. We truly appreciate customer loyalty which is why the Jell-Craft brand has been around for over 70 years. If you're ever in Del Rio, cross the border and go to Expresso 9 3/4! #JellCraftProducts #JellCraft #SnowCones #Raspas #SnoCones #Mexico #Texas #SATX #SanAntonio #FamilyJoin the hype and try our new Jell-Craft Drink Starters!
-“I purchased the Strawberry Lemonade and its soooo good! We must get the other two flavors now!”
-“I recommend it to everyone. I'll be sure to stock up and have it all my family's future parties!”
-“I love that I can make it easily by the cup - amazing, and it is so delicious - you can truly taste both the strawberry and the lemonade.”
Post a photo with #JCDrinkStarters on our Facebook page to win a bottle!
*These concentrates make 3- 48 oz. pitchers of drinks and DOES NOT contain High Fructose Corn Syrup! They are exclusive to @heb  #heb #jellcraftproducts #drinkstarters #beverages #lemonade #shoplocal #localbusiness #satx #sanantonio #foodie #foodandbeverage #health #trends #jalapeno