Detroit Community Serves Hope With These Potato ChipsBy Allison Berryman on February 11th, 2015 /
For native Detroiter Michael Wimberley, developing Friends Potato Chips wasn’t just a smart business venture, it was an opportunity to restore hope and prosperity to one struggling Detroit community.
Friends Potato Chips is a locally-made product that is hand-crafted, packaged, and distributed by Wimberley and a small team of volunteers in the Hope District of Detroit, a community that stretches from Van Dyke and Forest to Cadillac on city’s east side.
“The Hope District is a community that has been devastated by corporate blight and residential attrition,” said Wimberley. “We needed to figure out some way type of way to get back on our feet. We decided to come together as a community and develop a product that would put the Hope District back on the map.”
As the executive director for Friends of Detroit, an organization that is committed to the environmental and economic revitalization of The Hope District, Wimberley led the community to create a product that could be grown locally and represent the city of Detroit. The result was potato chips.
“Detroiters love potato chips,” said Wimberley. “We also knew we would have a good chance at success with a food product because the food industry is one of the biggest industries in the world.”
Since 2011, Wimberley and his team of volunteers have been growing potatoes in their urban farm located in the Hope District, and using them to produce hand-friend and spiced potato chips. They are currently available in two flavors, Barbeque and Lemon Pepper. “When we were starting to make our chips, we wanted to have a taste that was all our own,” said Wimberley. “For the last four years we’ve grown a lot of potatoes, but we are at the point now where we have really created this delicious, authentic potato chip.”
The Hope District is also working together to spread the word about Friend Potato Chips by passing out flyers throughout the community and nearby neighborhoods, as well as local retailers. Wimberley and his team can also be found at various Detroit markets and food-themed events offering free samples of their homemade potato chips.
“We rely on the community to give us feedback and to help us create a better product,” said Wimberley. “When we started, we knew we weren’t going to be perfect. But we did want to create something we could improve on day after day, week after week.”
While Wimberley is still focused on making Friends Potato Chips a household name exclusively within Detroit, he does have plans to expand his customer base regionally, and even nationally, in the near future.
Until then, he hopes that Friends Potato Chips will ultimately inspire others within the Hope District community to create products from community’s natural resources and lead a more productive lifestyle.
“We just want to demonstrate to the community that business can still thrive in the Hope District,” said Wimberley. “It’s all about taking that first step and getting started. There are a lot of resources here in Detroit, and a lot of people who are willing to mentor and help you along the way. It’s up to you to get started.”
Friends Potato Chips are sold at several Detroit retailers, including Goodwill’s Natural Food Market, Parker Street Market, and Detroit Farm and Garden. The proceeds from Friends Potato Chips benefit the Friends of Detroit Organization, and their mission to create jobs and affordable housing in Detroit’s Hope District. Learn more about them by visiting friendsofdetroit.org/friends-potato-chips/.