Bet You Can’t Find Just One

For nearly 30 years I traveled around the country visiting clients for Stamats.

It was on those trips that I discovered the amazing variety of regional potato chips.

There was Zapp’s in New Orleans and Tim’s in the Pacific Northwest.

California is the home to Rusty’s and in Arizona I could count on Poore Brothers.

When in Mobile I reached for Golden Flake.

Grippo's potato chips

Grippo’s was founded in 1919 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ohio is the land of Mikesell’s and Grippo’s and Shearer’s and Ballreich’s and Conn’s. For some reason, I always liked visiting Ohio.

Texas has Herr’s and Texas Style.

In Virginia, there was Route 11.

In New York, I found North Fork (of Long Island).

In Pennsylvania, it was Herr’s and Utz, Dieffenbach’s and Martin’s Kettle Cooked. (Who knew the Dutch loved potatoes so much?)

Connecticut had Deep River, and Massachusetts gave me Cape Cod chips.

What made these chips so great was their unique flavors.

I could savor lobster-flavored chips in Maine, cayenne and “crawtator” (don’t ask, you really don’t want to know) flavored chips in New Orleans, and chips with real bar-b-que flavor in Fort Worth. I found taro-flavored chips (can you guess where?) and jalapeño and sun-dried tomato and sea salt (lots of sea salt) and spinach and artichoke (I took a pass on those).

Sadly, there is a juggernaut out there that abhors regional distinctiveness. It is called Frito-Lay. Over time, more and more of the regional chips and all their unique flavors have been steam-rolled into oblivion. Over time, flavor and “regional-ness” are losing to sameness.

Sometimes, I think colleges are like potato chips.

Each time a college adopts the same academic program a competitor does, we lose to sameness.

Each time an accrediting body insists on following a historic (you can read this as “out-of-date”) paradigm, we lose to sameness.

Each time a college describes itself as friendly, caring, and supportive, we lose to sameness.

Each time a college makes the comfortable decision rather than the right one, we lose to sameness.

Each time these things occur we become a bit more like Frito-Lay.

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