Crumble A Jays Snack On The Curb For Another Former Homey Of Chicago Cuisine
Posted by Bob Skilnik on October 30, 2007
If you’ve ever lived in or visited Chicago, there are quintessential foods and drinks that you have to experience while you’re here, tasty treats that are part of Chicago’s cuisine. Vienna hot dogs (Chicago-style, and please, NO catsup—or Mr. Burns, is that ketchup?), Italian beef sandwiches, Old Style beer (although this is an illusion since Pabst contracts the brewing of the beer out to Miller, but more importantly, nobody drinks Old Style except out-of-towners who stop at Wrigley Field, say stupid things like “Go Cubbies” (aargh!), and throw down a few Old Styles as the Cubs lose, because they heard that it’s “Chicago’s Beer,” maybe a chunk of deep-dish pizza (even though most Chicagoans eat thin crust), and a bag of Jays Potato Chips.
Long story short on the history of Jays, but the company used to be named for its original owner, Leonard Japp, Sr., who started his bar snack business during Prohibition in Chicago. Since 8,000 licensed saloons were replaced with 10,000 to 15,000 speakeasies, Leonard did OK. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, however, the name “Japp” didn’t play too well with Chicagoans. The family was going to change the name to “Jax,” but there was a brewery in New Orleans with the same name, so “Jays” became the new name of the Chicago snack food business, more or less by default.
Jeffrey Dunn, president and CEO of Ubiquity Brands, the contemporary owner of Jays and Select Snacks has announced that the business has filed for Chapter 11. Reported more than $20 million in debt to unsecured non-bank creditors (how the hell this happens in “Big Business” is always beyond my comprehension. Go to your bank and ask for a $10,000 unsecured loan and watch how fast they show you the door), the rumor is that Synder, another snack food company, might reach into the bag of crumbs of what will be left of Jays after the owners scramble to pick up some quick cash from bits and pieces of the operation. The bankruptcy follows by three weeks the company’s sale of its Lincoln Snacks division to ConAgra Foods.
So, for the hell of it, why not pick up a sixer of Old Style and a big bag of Jays (“Can’t Stop Eatin’ Em!) this weekend and spill a sip of beer and a greasy chip or two on the curb for all the homeys of Chicago’s former food and drink businesses who are no longer with us…
Or maybe try this recipe for Jays Potato Chip Cookies and wash them down with a cold Old Style.