Ever Since Peerless of Gary, Indiana closed last summer we have had a persistent and unsolvable problem involving potato chips, puffed corn and pretzel rods. The Peerless story was sad enough: A 90-year-old family business. An owner with terminal cancer. Not a buyer to be found. A distribution center that was keeping Peerless alive but through its own hubris, went bankrupt.
But the true tragedy was that Peerless products were Peerless. Probably many of us who snacked on Peerless on an almost daily basis took Peerless for granted. I certainly did. I started to sense what a colossal catastrophe Peerless’ closing was going to be as shelves quickly became depleted of puffed corn, then chips and finally pretzel rods. (Pretzels in any other format are an anathema to me. I can’t make a meal out of them and rounded, or nuggets are always too salty.) I bought the last five bags of Peerless pretzel rods I found at the gas station in Ogden Dunes. Eventually those rods were consumed too.
Then came the challenge of finding what we would use to replace Peerless. Of course, the best option would have been to just quit eating snacks but realistically, in the late middle ages, minor pleasures take on much greater importance. In my case, petty indulgences took on added value around the same time I had developed very finicky taste for food. I don’t eat anything out of a can. I hate anything stale: vegetables after the first day, for instance. Fish beyond a day.
Being a Peerless eater, I had learned the difference between potato chips that are too old, too dense or too rubbery to eat only by eating someone else’s potato chips at a party. Pretzel rods were, however, a rude awakening. Walmart’s house brand was simply inedible and thrown away after one bite. What was I thinking? Snyder’s, the most common brand out there, was barely edible, too salty, stale, over-baked, bad consistency on the coating. Out of desperation, we finished a bag, though those pretzels seemed to last forever. I bought a bag of Rold Gold, knowing it would be worse than Snyder’s and I was right. Limping along through the winter, I found the CVS house brand, Gold Emblem, tolerable. I also saw this sad video by The Steel City Storm: Goodbye Forever – Peerless Potato Chips.
On the potato chip and popcorn front, my husband was not doing much better, but he settled quickly on Jay’s Oke-Doke corn puffs after the demise of Peerless. I seldom partake but when I do, I end up thinking about Jay’s not being as good as Peerless, but I could be misremembering—corn puffs were a new product for Peerless. We tried corn puffs only because Peerless made them.
Finding an adequate substitute for Peerless Potato Chips was just going to be impossible for me. But Jeff tried and managed to zero in on Sea Salt and Vinegar flavored, Cape Cod Kettle Cooked chips. Cape Cod chips are inferior to Peerless as my husband admits, but he has learned to like the exotic and different taste.
Finally, after months of trial and error, I found Utz Pretzel Rods. I have only vague memories of Peerless now, but Utz is close. Unfortunately, when I returned to the store where I purchased Utz, the rod version had disappeared. Pathetically, I have looked ever since and only found Northwest Indiana is outside of Utz’s distribution area from Google. (Walmart carries Utz’s horseshoe pretzels.) Utz Snacks is an old, family-owned business in Hanover, Pennsylvania started in 1921, seven years before Peerless, that persisted through the Depression and presumably expanded when Peerless should have but did not.
I am a desperate person.
The shipping costs are more than the pretzels, but I ordered directly from the Utz family factory. This may sound ridiculous, but I promise the Utzs I will never take them for granted. And Jeff Strack, if you are reading this, please think about an update for your snacks aisles. You can reach Utz through their website. I don’t know how much Peerless you sold, but I’m sure you do.