Of course we all know Nalley's for it's extensive line of great tasting chili. But over 80 years of history and a lot of hard work has gotten us to the brand we know and love today. And that history is strongly rooted in the Northwest.
Nalley's was founded in 1918 by a 28-year-old Chef living in Tacoma. Starting with thinly sliced potatoes called "Saratoga Chips", Marcus Nalley spent 44 years of his life becoming a household name. His potato chips were so popular, Nalley decided to open up a plant where he could produce them in greater quantity, as well as produce his own brands of mayonnaise and maple syrup. Despite hard times during the Great Depression, sales continued to soar and Nalley's began to expand throughout the Northwest in the early 1940s.
The first major development in production was the opening of a large factory in the southern outskirts of Tacoma. This factory produced pickles, potato chips, canned foods and salad dressings. And because it was the first operation to occupy this industrial development, the entire area was dubbed "Nalley Valley", a name that remains to this day.
In later years, new plants opened up in Tigard, Oregon and Billings, Montana. Nalley's was becoming even more of a staple in the Northwestern household. In fact, at the height of its operation, the company was operating more than 10 potato chip facilities within the US.
Marcus Nalley died in 1962, leaving behind a legacy that would continue to grow and grow. Today there are over 1,300 food products under the Nalley label ranging from pickles to canned foods to salad dressing and peanut butter. With canned chili as its biggest seller, the Nalley label continues to be synonymous with delicious, high quality food products.
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In this photograph from August 1948, three unidentified employees carefully hand bag potato chips at the Nalley's plant at 3410 So. Lawrence St. Nalley's Inc. had its beginning in 1918 when Marcus nalley started operation of his now famous Nalley's potato chips in his kitchen. What was once a one man operation covered the entire west coast by 1946. Production operations were located in Tacoma, WA, Vancouver, B.C., and Spokane, WA. In Vancouver, a complete line of Nalley's products was made. In Spokane, manufacturing of potato chips was the main operation, and in tacoma, two large factories, Nalley's on Puyallup Avenue and the affiliated plant of L&N Products at 3410 South Lawrence Street provided the bulk of the products sold in the western states.
Nelly’s truck from Klamath Falls Oregon c 1940
A large delivery truck was parked outside the loading dock of the Tacoma Nalley's potato chip factory on August 5, 1950. Because the demand for potato chips was so high, a separate facility was built on Nalley's 15-acre tract on South tacoma Way for the manufacture of potato chips. The plant building was also the home of one of Nalley's subsidiary companies, United Foods, Inc.
Three Nalley's delivery trucks are lined up outside the company plant on July 7, 1923. Two of the three drivers are visible behind the steering wheels. Nalley's trucks were decorated with the slogan, "If it's Nalley's it's Good." An uncropped version of this photograph ran in the Tacoma Sunday Ledger on June 15, 1923. Nalley's had added more Dodges to their fleet including a touring car and a panel business car (not pictured above).
View of Nalley's employees wearing aprons and getting ready to serve the famous Nalley's fine food products to the guests. Nalley's anniversary celebration dinner menu included: mayonnaise, potato chips, burgers with Nalley's pickles, salad with "Tang" salad dressing and spaghetti; advertisements in background . (Tacoma News Times 8/25/49).
Irwin-Jones Motor Company, a Nalley's Potato Chip delivery truck. The Dodge truck has the name, "Ray Beeber Food sales, Klamath Falls, Oregon" on the side of the door. The covered back end of the truck has painted signs for "Nalley's" and "Nalley's Fresh Potato Chips, Fresh-Crisp Delicious. 09-20-1946
This photograph showing the rear view of a Dodge truck displaying nalley's products was taken on August 9, 1950. Nalley's Inc. had a large delivery fleet. The Fort Lewis ticker above the license plate on truck #146 indicates that this vehicle probably made delivery of potato chips and other foods to the military base. Nalley's has a large factory built in 1940 on a 17 acre plot of land on (then) outskirts of town. It became known as Nalley valley. (History of Pierce County, Washington, Vol. 1, p 448).
The only thing better than a pretty girl to sell potato chips is two pretty girls. Two unidentified models in swimsuits snack on delicious Nalley's potato chips in September 1958. They are reaching into a metal chute at the Nalley's plant and sampling a chip or two. Nalley's as well known for their potato chips as well as a variety of other products-pickles, mayonnaise, salad dressings and syrup. In fact, Marcus Nalley began his company by preparing potato chips in his own small kitchen which were fried in cooking oil and packed in paper bags.
Circa 1959 aerial of "Nalley valley." All of the buildings in the center of the picture, to the left of the railroad tracks and above 35th Street which bisects the picture, belong to Marcus Nalley's vast food production empire. Marcus Nalley arrived in Ellis Island in 1903 at the age of 13 with 15 cents in his pocket. By the age of 21, with hard work and perseverance, he was working at a chef at one of Chicago's finest hotels. When he came to Tacoma, WA, he brought with him a recipe for an eastern delicacy "Saratoga Chips" - potato chips. By 1920, he had need of a factor to produce this chips , plus two new products of his design: Lumber jack Syrup and nalley's Mayonnaise. His first factory opened at 409 Puyallup Ave. he guided his company and employees through the depression. By 1930, he set his sights on 17 acre parcel on the outskirts of town. By the 1940's, his modern factory opened in the area that became known as "Nalley valley." Marcus Nalley died in 1962 and his company was sold to W.R. Grace in 1966. It has changed owners since that time.
A display of Nalley's potato chips at the Big Bear Store. Potato chips were Marcus Nalley's first product, prepared in his own small kitchen, fried in cooking oil, and packed in paper bags. "This is only the beginning" was his favorite comment during the 1930;s and it was certainly true. This rack includes two sizes, 25 cent and 39 cent, of the regional favorite potato chips. Krun-chees and popcorn were 10 cents a bag. bags of Ruffles Potato Chips hang along the left hand side. Hanging in the middle of the display is an ad that ran in Sunset magazine. 04-06-1951
A table is set with plates full of buns heaped with sloppy-joes, potato chips, pickles and olives. A box of nalley's potato chips and a bottle of Nalley's dill pickles at the back of the table together with a can of oscar mayer shredded pork and shredded beef and a large tray of Lindsay olives. 12-30-1949
The fleet of delivery trucks is lines up outside the District Sales Office. Signs over the loading bays advertise Tang Salad Dressing, Mayonnaise, Potato Chips, Lumber Jack Syrup and Treasure Pickles. Over the sales office the sign advertises Nalley's as wholesale distributors of food specialties.
Nalley's potato chip and popcorn factory. Many women at work at several different work stations in the assembly-line system used at Nalley's in cooling, bagging, and preparing the potato chips for shipment. A separate facility was built on part of the 15-acre tract on South Tacoma Way for the manufacture of potato chips. The chip plant in Spokane had reached its capacity and still the demand was high. The new plant was the home of one of the subsidiary companies, United Foods, Inc.
Mayor C. Val fawcett commended Nalley's and he stated he knew Marcus Nalley when he was selling his potato chips to housewives from a basket. By 1949 the company employed 600 people. View of visitors touring the Nalley Valley facilities; they are seeing a Nalley's employee work the assembly-line method used in manufacturing the famous potato chips. 8/25/1949.
Two young models are captured in the process of enjoying a bowl of Nalley's potato chips on September 4, 1958. These swimsuited women appear to be dipping their chips into a bowl of dressing. Nalley's chips were very popular and came in the traditional smooth shapes and also in ridges. Marcus Nalley ran a multi-dollar business which was one of Tacoma's greatest employers. His product line expanded to salad dressings, syrups, mayonaise, peanut butter, canned chilli, beef stew, and pickles of all kind.
Nalley's original plant in downtown Tacoma at Puyallup Avenue & "D" Street. Built in 1929, the huge factory opened in February of 1930. Walker-Wilkerson cut stone and brick from lay City were used in the desig. Nalley's would move to the 3000 block of South Lawrence in the 1940's when they outgrew the Pallyup Avenue plant. The building would be purchased by the Salvation Army for use as a social and rehabilitation center in 1953.
A little girl in a sunsuit holds an enormous bag of potato chips while standing on a tabletop at the Nalley's plant on September 4, 1958. In front of the child is a lineup of open potato chip bags. Apparently the chips are poured through a plastic funnel into the waiting receptacles. 09-04-1958.
The fleet of Dodge delivery trucks is lined up outside of Nallet's District sales Office. 06-03-1947.
Nalley's opened a new potato chip factory which houses a continuous chip frier. Only Kennebec potatoes were usewd by Nalley's to make potato chips. After harvesting, thje potatoes were held in a tempering room untilthe sugar content reverted, through natural processes, to starch. They were then dropped by a lift truck into a hopper where they began their journey along conveyor belts for washing, peeling, inspection, slicing and rinsing. Chips were dropped into a long kettle where an employe controlled the speed at which the chips were propelled through the hot oil. Here potato chips come down a conveyor belt and are reviewed by two workers for quality. The chips continue through a machine with a hood and then out of sight on the left. The factory contained a 10,000 gallon fuel tank to supply potato chip friers and two 5,000 gallon salad oil tanks. Three large air conditioned rooms stored the chips. 8/28/1946.
A crew of workmen were putting the finishing touches on Cheney Satdium in ASpril of 1960. The giant plywood wall in center field was eventually dubbed the "Great Wall of Cheney." Nalley's had already put up an advertisement which portrayed a baseball player, glove extended, reaching for an oncoming ball. Nalley's promised that any batter who hit the glove would collect $50 from the company.
It appears that this little girl's plea for crispy potato chips will be denied or limited by an admonishing woman, perhaps "mother" in a September 4, 1958 photograph. The child is reaching one arm toward a glass bowl packd full of Nalley's potato chips, but Mom has her finger pointing outward. It may be too close to dinner time for such a delicious snack.
The interior of A-G Food Store No.5 where Stan R. Eagle was manager. A display of Nalley's potato chips is in the center of the view. A dairy case is on the left. Produce is displayed in the rear on the left and th other shelves are filled with bags and cans of other grocery items. 01-29-1952.
Marcus Nalley, the founder of Nalley's Incorporated, gave an anniversary speech for the company's 31st anniversary on August 24, 1949. Marcus Nalley came from Croatia to New York in 1903. he had 15 cents in his pocket and couldn't speak a word of English. His name at that time was Marko Narancic. he took several jobs; in a steel mill, as a meat packer and finally in a hotel kitchen where he moved from kitchen flunky to pantry boy to fry cook. He became a chef on the first "Olympian" of the Milwaukee Railroad which ran between Chicago and Tacoma. Later, at the Bonneville Hotel in Tacoma, he learned to make a new potato delicacy, "Saratoga Chips." He began making potato chips in his own small kitchen and selling them door-to-door. In 1918, he rented a $5 a-month storeroom behind his apartment and began adding other food products. By 1969 his company processed 200 difefrent food items.
Visiting teachers from Oakland munch on potato chips as they tou the Nalley's plant. 04-24-1952.