Commentary: What's in a chip?


You remember back when in May of 1978 when two unknown guys named Ben & Jerry thought it might be a good idea to make and sell ice cream? And remember six short years later they decided they wanted to be more than just two guys selling ice cream so they raised capital by offering a Vermonter's only investment opportunity? I recall that it was $10/share or something like that.

Well, we know how that story ended. Many of us today are kicking ourselves because we didn't jump on the ice cream truck. It's not every day that one gets two bites at the apple; or in today's case, the chip.

Jack Gilbert started Candelero's, a restaurant in Manchester, 21 years ago. A few years back he changed the name to Gringo Jack's. In addition to running a restaurant, Jack has quietly branched out into the chip and salsa wholesale business. Jack is an under-the-radar kind of guy. He shows up every day, puts his head down and grinds away trying to advance the ball down the field a yard or two at a time.

If you're like me, you don't really recall just when it was you started seeing the black label with red letters advertising Gringo Jack's salsa and/or chips. One day they were just there on the shelf. For us it just happened. For Jack it's been years of careful business planning, researching, working hard to develop the best product possible. He made the leap from running a retail restaurant to becoming a wholesale supplier.

Without fanfare he moved into a warehouse in Bennington and set up a very impressive processing plant where his products are manufactured, packaged and shipped all around the Northeast and elsewhere.

Jack isn't the kind of guy to sit back rest on his laurels. He's made the decision that he wants to take Gringo Jack's to the next level. Like the rest of his business plan, he spent years researching and figuring out how he could go from where he is to where he'd like to be. Those of us who are not true entrepreneurs probably can't even relate to the effort that has gone into his current business, to say nothing about what he hopes to accomplish.

The following statement was taken from a letter that he's sent out to potential investors:

"Gringo Jack's is running a capital investment campaign called Chip In, which will help grow their line of products and distribution networks as well as growing jobs at Gringo Jack's and the local producers and suppliers of their ingredients.

Chip In is a true social impact campaign. In addition to growing jobs locally Chip In makes it easier for Vermonters to invest back into their own communities by utilizing the Vermont Small Business Offering, (VSBO). VSBO allows investors to participate at levels that are lower than traditional investment campaigns, and without the normal accreditation requirements, which in effect opens the opportunity to a much broader population.

Here are a few of the farms and producers that supply Gringo Jack's:

True Love Farms, Clearbrook Farms*, Long Wind Farms, Singing Cedars*, Yoder Farms*, Full Sun Non GMO Canola Oil, Sugar Bob's Smoked Maple Syrup, Hop n Moose Brewery. (*Not only does Gringo Jack's buy produce but also make's value added products that each of these sell under their own labels.)

Jack is using a model similar to that used by Ben & Jerry when they first got started. The paperwork alone is daunting, but not enough so to overcome the entrepreneurial spirit. You may be wondering about what role you might be able to play. Glad you asked. If you'd like to help another Vermont business expand to reach a larger audience you can do so by visiting the website

There are few times when we get to help out one of our own. This is one of those times.

Bob Stannard resides in Manchester


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