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Potato Chip company thrives on kama‘aina support

After 65 years of serving up its local version of crispy goodies, Maui Potato Chip Factory thrives because residents and visitors cherish kama‘aina and buy local.

Owner and operator Mark Kobayashi traces the origins of the family-owned Kahului potato chip company to 1956 when his late grandfather, Yoshio, purchased the business. Kobayashi’s father, Dewey, Dewey’s brother, Joe; and Mark’s only brother, Edwin, all worked for the business. Truly a family business.

At its peak, Maui Potato Chip Factory employed 32 workers. The company’s well-known “Kitch’n Cook’d” chips in a signature see-through bags with red-and-yellow labels were a regular part of gift giving for visitors and residents seeking something special for their friends, neighbors and off-island relatives.

Today, Mark Kobayashi is the sole potato chip maker. His wife, Diane, serves as the company accountant. “We haven’t changed the brand. We haven’t changed the name,” Kobayashi said. State and federal regulations, according to Kobayashi, have resulted in Maui Potato Chip using more refined oil and salt in its potato chips.

COVID-19 brought major challenges. “We were struggling, but we kept on trying,” Mark Kobayashi said. When their potato supplier couldn’t deliver in 2020 during the pandemic, Maui Potato Chip got help from a friend on Kauai, and a big assist in potatoes from Mahi Pono.

Kobayashi said residents stop by the factory on Lalo Street in Kahului to buy a bag or two to help the local business survive through hard times. “The part you’re always going to miss is the customer,” he said. “All these people, they’ve become family and they’re just fun to be around.”

Maui Potato Chip Factory experienced an increase in sales by participating in the recent Pop-Up Makeke program and Maui No Ka Oi’s “Holiday Gift Guide” sponsored by the County of Maui. Their chips were marketed worldwide through these programs.