"Crunch Time" For The Governor

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Governor Earl Ray Tomblin stopped by the Mister Bee potato chip plant in Parkersburg, which recently resumed production after being closed nearly six months.

The company's president credited the help of the governor and the state development office to get the business producing again.

"As I understand it, they're the only potato chip manufacturer in the state," the governor noted, "and West Virginia consumers love its products. So it's good to have them made at home, and have the jobs here."

"I'm on the phone with the director (of the state development office) two, three times a week," said company President Christie Mallett. "He's very attentive to Mister Bee, as well as the other accounts he addresses in this area. So Governor Tomblin's office has been a huge influence on why Mister Bee is back."

The company halted production after filing for bankruptcy protection last November.

Mister Bee products returned to store shelves earlier this month.

Update 5/9/2012 6:00 P.M.

They're making chips again...but bankruptcy proceedings for Mister Bee are still making their way through the courts.

The company shut down its production last fall, after filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Recently, a federal bankruptcy court in Charleston granted Mister Bee the right to lease its name, trademark and manufacturing equipment.

The option to buy that property has been given to James Richard Barton consulting.

Barton has a six-month exclusive option to purchase Mister Bee property and 90 days to purchase its assets.

Mister Bee chips returned to store shelves late last week, after a nearly six-month absence.

UPDATE; 5/7/2012 10:53 PM

Foodland stores report that the chips were a hot item this past weekend.

The escalated price has deterred some buyers, but the Mister Bee faithful say price doesn't matter.

"Oh I was so happy. I was on Facebook and saying I hope they don't change them. They're the best chips in the world. They need to go worldwide. They really do. They're that good," says customer Susan Bee.

Right now only original, barbecue, and sour cream and onion flavors are available.

But as production continues the company expects to add more varieties for purchase.

Update: 5/04/2012 8:10 P.M.

For the first time since a bankruptcy filing and stop in production six months ago, Mister Bee has product back on the shelves.

The chips were on store shelves throughout the valley, and in places outside the area such as Morgantown.

The Plum Street Foodland actually had people waiting outside when it opened this morning to buy the hometown chips.

And some wanted to share the good news with their friends across the country.

"Right now, people who haven't had a Mister Bee chip in several months," says store manager David Worst, "and it is a hometown chip with a connection to the area, and they want to hoard up as much as they can."

"I'm glad they're back; that's why I came in here today," according to shopper Fred Moore. "Everybody's wanted one, I'm sending some out to Washington State for my kids."

Worst says Mister Bee has always been a steady seller in the area...but, with its absence, other snack companies have aggressively tried to capture those customers.

UPDATE 4/30/2012 12:33 PM

You may see Mister Bee Potato Chips on store shelves in a matter of days.

Sources tell WTAP News Mister Bee Potato Chips maybe on store shelves for sale by Friday.

Deliveries to at least one local supermarket is scheduled for Thursday.

Those chips should be for sale Friday, May 4th for those who've been craving Mister Bees.

We'll be sure to keep following this story as it unfolds.

Update: 4/11/2012 6:20 P.M.

"Thank goodness...they're my favorite chips, they're the best chips around here."

Doug Burkammer returned here from the west recently, and wondered what had happened to Mister Bee potato chips.

So had other diners at the Third Street Deli, which used to stock Mister Bee.

"I'd give them a try again," said one customer.

"I know a lot of people who like the home town brand," said another.

The company's Parkersburg office doesn't have an exact date as to when production will resume, but say it's likely to be in the second half of this financial quarter.

The manager of several local Foodland stores says he isn't sure when the product will be back on shelves. But, just like everyone else, he's hopeful a local brand is back in the local area.

The head of the company told us back in December the public was supportive of them, after it filed for chapter eleven reorganization:

"Our customers and consumers have been great," President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Klein said at the time. "Everybody's said, 'we want you back on the shelves'. They've been willing to work with us, they understand these are tough economic times."

Mister Bee ownership tells WTAP News Doug Klein is no longer President and CEO, but will hold a position with the company which will be named at a later date.

Mister Bee has made potato chips and other snacks for West Virginia and southeastern Ohio since the early 1950's.

"I wish them luck; I know they are a local institution," said diner Scott Dansey, "and hope they do well."

And aside from having back a local iconic company, a production restart would be good for the local economy.

UPDATE: 4/11/2012

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Mister Bee Potato Chips Co. is resuming production with the help of a private investor.

The Parkersburg company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last November. Since then, Mister Bee says it has restructured its organization and operations.

Mister Bee says in a news release that production will resume in the middle of the second quarter.

The company didn't identify the private investor. But it says the investor and others involved in Mister Bee are committed to keeping its operations in Parkersburg.

The family-owned company was founded in 1951 by Leo and Sara Klein. It serves West Virginia, Ohio and eastern Kentucky.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

UPDATE: 3/26/2012 4:19 PM

A court date is set for April 4th between the chip company president, Doug Klein, and GMC.

A Charleston Bankruptcy Court clerk tells us GMC will be meeting with Klein to discuss ten company vehicles.

Court documents show most are company vehicles, but there's also a Cadillac SRS owned by the company.

The meeting will decide if a payment can be made on the vehicles or if GMC will have to repossess them.
UPDATE: 12/23/2012 3:23 PM

Mister Bee's president, Doug Klein, says they are waiting on banking paperwork to clear.

In the meantime, Klein says his employees are on low earnings.

That means they're not technically on unemployment and will be called back to work as soon as production resumes. Employees are getting 80 percent of their wages through Workforce West Virginia.

Klein says he should have a better idea of where production stands in a few weeks.

UPDATE 12/13/2011 2:30 PM

He's still optimistic.

Doug Klein, president of the Mister Bee's Potato Chip Company, remains hopeful production will resume at the Parkersburg manufacturer by this week's end.

Klein said Tuesday he is still waiting on paperwork to be completed at the state level, after last week's approval of an anonymous investor who can bring money into the company.

Production of the company's snack foods was halted in November, after Mister Bee filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

UPDATE 12/8/2011 7:45 AM

Production at Mister Bee Potato Chip Company is expected to be up and running by early next week after the the United States Department of Justice and Trustees Office approved post petition financing allowing an investor to start giving money to the company.

Approval was given at a hearing in Charleston on Wednesday.

Company president Doug Klein says he hopes production will begin again on Monday or Tuesday. He is currently working with suppliers to bring in the necessary raw material to the factory.

The investor wishes to remain anonymous.
UPDATE 12/6/2011 5:51 PM

A hearing on Wednesday will decide if money from an anonymous donor can fund production for Mister Bee potato chips.

President Doug Klein says his motion for post petition financing allows the donor to start giving money to the company immediately.

He expects it to pass because there are no challenges. If it's approved, the factory hopes to begin production by the end of the week.

We'll have the results of the hearing tomorrow.

UPDATE: 11/30/11 11:30 a.m.

Production at Mister Bee Potato Chip Company has come to a halt. The company, the only of its kind in West Virginia, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on November 21, pausing production for the last two weeks.
Doug Klein, president of Mister Bee, says the company is looking to reorganize and take on a new investor.

Since 2009, Klein says the company has racked up about $2 million in debt due to a down turn in sales revenue. In its filing, the company lists more than 50 creditors, with the largest being UTZ Quality Foods, to whom the company owes nearly $700,000.

On January 3, 2012, representatives of Mister Bee will meet with the company's creditors in Charleston to hammer out a repayment agreement.

However, Klein says the Parkersburg-based factory will be up and running much sooner than that thanks to a promising investor. Klein says the unnamed investor could be announced as soon as next Thursday pending the approval of the United States Department of Justice and Trustees Office. That means production could be buzzing along by next week.

Klein says the temporary delay in production will not lead to layoffs.
Local potato chip-maker Mister Bee Potato Chip Company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on November 21.

Doug Klein, president of Mister Bee, says the company is looking to reorganize and take on a new investor.

The filing comes a month after the company public acknowledged distribution issues. On October 14, Klein said despite on-going finanical problems the company had no intention of closing.

Mister Bee Potato Chip Company is West Virginia’s last remaining company of its type.

WTAP will update this story as more information becomes available.

October 17th, 2011 - Mister Bee Potato Chip Company Resumes Production

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