Nellie O'Connor's Tortilla Chips a tasty Waterdown legacy

News Jul 17, 2017 by Julia Lovett Flamborough Review

Terry Brush fondly remembers going over to his Aunt Nellie O’Connor’s home — next door to his on Union Street in Waterdown — and feasting on her unique snack creations.

“She was always doing all the cooking, she was a great cook,” he said, noting that her recipes included homemade potato chips with interesting seasoning combinations.

“You couldn’t wait to go over to Aunt Nell’s to see what she had.”

Brush explained that every Friday night, growing up in the ‘60s, he and his brothers John and Jim had a ritual: they would head next door to see what new delights their aunt had made.

“Kids would get real still-warm candy apples on Halloween at Nell’s. That’s just what she was like,” he said.

With those memories in mind, he and a couple of business partners (his brother John and friend Ken Tracey) decided to start a chip company. They wanted to put something unique on the market and were guided by the influence of their aunt. Thus they named their new product Nellie O’Connor’s Tortilla Chips.

“That’s where you get flavours like Cream Cheese and Red Pepper Jelly on a tortilla chip, just way out there sort of stuff,” said Brush.

The story of Nell and the eventual namesake chips might not have happened had it not been for a certain priest in Ireland in 1912. Brush’s grandfather Jack O’Connor was coming to North America and had hoped to bring his new bride with him from Ireland but at the time he wanted to leave in early April, they weren't yet married.

“This is absolute gospel — he had a ticket with the Titanic and the priest wouldn’t read the banns of marriage quick enough,” explained Bush, noting that the priest made the engaged couple wait six months — and missing the fated liner.

Fast forward 50 years and Brush, along with his brothers and cousins all played together with the other neighbourhood children in the backyard behind the house while their Aunt Nell put smiles on their faces through her love of life and food.

“She was just a wonderful, fun lady, loved animals, raised her two kids totally on her own, just a wonderful woman and we were little kids," he recalled. "We weren’t being taught how to cook, we were just more enjoying what she’d come up with."

According to Joe Johnson, Nellie O’Connor’s son, some of that culinary creativity was borne of necessity: to help save money on the grocery bills, his mother used her talents to help stretch out the household food supply.

“She always cooked at home obviously and we always had real good meals even though we weren’t too rich back in those days but we never went for food,” he said.

Brush and Tracey’s other company, Garavogue, has several products on the market, including non-alcoholic beer that is in stores across Canada and a popped grain snack called Broghies, which is distributed internationally. John Brush owns CorrPak, a display company that makes displays for chocolates and other food items and as a result, they teamed up for a new venture.

“We got together, the three of us thought ‘What if we come up with a real unique snack that Ken and I should know a little bit about (they both come from the beverage and snack industry) and John can help us with the merchandizing part of it, the packaging, the displayers — the cases they come in.’”

The team decided on tortilla chips because the category isn't as saturated as the kettle or potato varieties.

“If you walk down the chip isle … out of Zehr’s, you’re going to see Lays and about six or seven different flavours of Lays potato chips and then you’re going to see Miss Vickie’s kettle chips and all their flavours,” said Brush. He explained that if you look for flavoured tortilla chips, the only brand people will come across is Doritos although Tostitos are now exploring the flavoured market.

“We thought, 'Why not bring some variety to that very big subcategory,'” he added. They began planning, and after a year of working out the details of the new company (Nellie O’Connors Inc.) that handles the chips, they launched their product in retailers at the beginning of 2017. Brush explained that some of the flavours they chose, including Mac and Cheese and Ketchup were taken out of O’Connor’s cookbook, while others like Thai Coconut and Korean Barbecue were created after the three men had a brainstorming session.

“We made a list of what we thought might work,” he said, adding that they got together with a seasoning seller who worked with them to get the tastes just right.

“We literally met with our seasoning guy and he had a few varieties and you would go back and forth," he explained. "There wasn’t enough bite on the Cream Cheese and Red Pepper Jelly initially, the other thing we do is apply a lot more seasoning than most companies do."

The whole operation is pretty homegrown, Brush explained. Instead of hiring taste testers, they bring the chips home and give them to family members for a trial run.

“I’d ask my girls and Ken would ask his younger family and my brother would take it into his company core pack and we’d just get people to try. Try it — it’s really that simple.”

When the newly formed company took their idea to Johnson, he thought it was an excellent idea but wanted a caveat put in place.

“Well, I wanted to sign a $1-million contract to use the name actually but that didn’t work out,” he said laughing.

“She’d have loved that, you know, with the face on there, (a picture of O’Connor graces every bag of chips) yeah, we thought that was great.”

So far, Nellie O'Connor's Tortilla Chips have made their way onto shelves in major super markets such as Zehr’s and Superstore, and the family hopes the line will continue to be successful.

“Whether they do or not, it’s still a good thing," said Johnson. "It’s good for her and her, I guess, legacy if that’s the right word."

Nellie O'Connor's Tortilla Chips a tasty Waterdown legacy

News Jul 17, 2017 by Julia Lovett Flamborough Review

Terry Brush fondly remembers going over to his Aunt Nellie O’Connor’s home — next door to his on Union Street in Waterdown — and feasting on her unique snack creations.

“She was always doing all the cooking, she was a great cook,” he said, noting that her recipes included homemade potato chips with interesting seasoning combinations.

“You couldn’t wait to go over to Aunt Nell’s to see what she had.”

Brush explained that every Friday night, growing up in the ‘60s, he and his brothers John and Jim had a ritual: they would head next door to see what new delights their aunt had made.

“Kids would get real still-warm candy apples on Halloween at Nell’s. That’s just what she was like,” he said.

With those memories in mind, he and a couple of business partners (his brother John and friend Ken Tracey) decided to start a chip company. They wanted to put something unique on the market and were guided by the influence of their aunt. Thus they named their new product Nellie O’Connor’s Tortilla Chips.

“That’s where you get flavours like Cream Cheese and Red Pepper Jelly on a tortilla chip, just way out there sort of stuff,” said Brush.

The story of Nell and the eventual namesake chips might not have happened had it not been for a certain priest in Ireland in 1912. Brush’s grandfather Jack O’Connor was coming to North America and had hoped to bring his new bride with him from Ireland but at the time he wanted to leave in early April, they weren't yet married.

“This is absolute gospel — he had a ticket with the Titanic and the priest wouldn’t read the banns of marriage quick enough,” explained Bush, noting that the priest made the engaged couple wait six months — and missing the fated liner.

Fast forward 50 years and Brush, along with his brothers and cousins all played together with the other neighbourhood children in the backyard behind the house while their Aunt Nell put smiles on their faces through her love of life and food.

“She was just a wonderful, fun lady, loved animals, raised her two kids totally on her own, just a wonderful woman and we were little kids," he recalled. "We weren’t being taught how to cook, we were just more enjoying what she’d come up with."

According to Joe Johnson, Nellie O’Connor’s son, some of that culinary creativity was borne of necessity: to help save money on the grocery bills, his mother used her talents to help stretch out the household food supply.

“She always cooked at home obviously and we always had real good meals even though we weren’t too rich back in those days but we never went for food,” he said.

Brush and Tracey’s other company, Garavogue, has several products on the market, including non-alcoholic beer that is in stores across Canada and a popped grain snack called Broghies, which is distributed internationally. John Brush owns CorrPak, a display company that makes displays for chocolates and other food items and as a result, they teamed up for a new venture.

“We got together, the three of us thought ‘What if we come up with a real unique snack that Ken and I should know a little bit about (they both come from the beverage and snack industry) and John can help us with the merchandizing part of it, the packaging, the displayers — the cases they come in.’”

The team decided on tortilla chips because the category isn't as saturated as the kettle or potato varieties.

“If you walk down the chip isle … out of Zehr’s, you’re going to see Lays and about six or seven different flavours of Lays potato chips and then you’re going to see Miss Vickie’s kettle chips and all their flavours,” said Brush. He explained that if you look for flavoured tortilla chips, the only brand people will come across is Doritos although Tostitos are now exploring the flavoured market.

“We thought, 'Why not bring some variety to that very big subcategory,'” he added. They began planning, and after a year of working out the details of the new company (Nellie O’Connors Inc.) that handles the chips, they launched their product in retailers at the beginning of 2017. Brush explained that some of the flavours they chose, including Mac and Cheese and Ketchup were taken out of O’Connor’s cookbook, while others like Thai Coconut and Korean Barbecue were created after the three men had a brainstorming session.

“We made a list of what we thought might work,” he said, adding that they got together with a seasoning seller who worked with them to get the tastes just right.

“We literally met with our seasoning guy and he had a few varieties and you would go back and forth," he explained. "There wasn’t enough bite on the Cream Cheese and Red Pepper Jelly initially, the other thing we do is apply a lot more seasoning than most companies do."

The whole operation is pretty homegrown, Brush explained. Instead of hiring taste testers, they bring the chips home and give them to family members for a trial run.

“I’d ask my girls and Ken would ask his younger family and my brother would take it into his company core pack and we’d just get people to try. Try it — it’s really that simple.”

When the newly formed company took their idea to Johnson, he thought it was an excellent idea but wanted a caveat put in place.

“Well, I wanted to sign a $1-million contract to use the name actually but that didn’t work out,” he said laughing.

“She’d have loved that, you know, with the face on there, (a picture of O’Connor graces every bag of chips) yeah, we thought that was great.”

So far, Nellie O'Connor's Tortilla Chips have made their way onto shelves in major super markets such as Zehr’s and Superstore, and the family hopes the line will continue to be successful.

“Whether they do or not, it’s still a good thing," said Johnson. "It’s good for her and her, I guess, legacy if that’s the right word."

Nellie O'Connor's Tortilla Chips a tasty Waterdown legacy

News Jul 17, 2017 by Julia Lovett Flamborough Review

Terry Brush fondly remembers going over to his Aunt Nellie O’Connor’s home — next door to his on Union Street in Waterdown — and feasting on her unique snack creations.

“She was always doing all the cooking, she was a great cook,” he said, noting that her recipes included homemade potato chips with interesting seasoning combinations.

“You couldn’t wait to go over to Aunt Nell’s to see what she had.”

Brush explained that every Friday night, growing up in the ‘60s, he and his brothers John and Jim had a ritual: they would head next door to see what new delights their aunt had made.

“Kids would get real still-warm candy apples on Halloween at Nell’s. That’s just what she was like,” he said.

With those memories in mind, he and a couple of business partners (his brother John and friend Ken Tracey) decided to start a chip company. They wanted to put something unique on the market and were guided by the influence of their aunt. Thus they named their new product Nellie O’Connor’s Tortilla Chips.

“That’s where you get flavours like Cream Cheese and Red Pepper Jelly on a tortilla chip, just way out there sort of stuff,” said Brush.

The story of Nell and the eventual namesake chips might not have happened had it not been for a certain priest in Ireland in 1912. Brush’s grandfather Jack O’Connor was coming to North America and had hoped to bring his new bride with him from Ireland but at the time he wanted to leave in early April, they weren't yet married.

“This is absolute gospel — he had a ticket with the Titanic and the priest wouldn’t read the banns of marriage quick enough,” explained Bush, noting that the priest made the engaged couple wait six months — and missing the fated liner.

Fast forward 50 years and Brush, along with his brothers and cousins all played together with the other neighbourhood children in the backyard behind the house while their Aunt Nell put smiles on their faces through her love of life and food.

“She was just a wonderful, fun lady, loved animals, raised her two kids totally on her own, just a wonderful woman and we were little kids," he recalled. "We weren’t being taught how to cook, we were just more enjoying what she’d come up with."

According to Joe Johnson, Nellie O’Connor’s son, some of that culinary creativity was borne of necessity: to help save money on the grocery bills, his mother used her talents to help stretch out the household food supply.

“She always cooked at home obviously and we always had real good meals even though we weren’t too rich back in those days but we never went for food,” he said.

Brush and Tracey’s other company, Garavogue, has several products on the market, including non-alcoholic beer that is in stores across Canada and a popped grain snack called Broghies, which is distributed internationally. John Brush owns CorrPak, a display company that makes displays for chocolates and other food items and as a result, they teamed up for a new venture.

“We got together, the three of us thought ‘What if we come up with a real unique snack that Ken and I should know a little bit about (they both come from the beverage and snack industry) and John can help us with the merchandizing part of it, the packaging, the displayers — the cases they come in.’”

The team decided on tortilla chips because the category isn't as saturated as the kettle or potato varieties.

“If you walk down the chip isle … out of Zehr’s, you’re going to see Lays and about six or seven different flavours of Lays potato chips and then you’re going to see Miss Vickie’s kettle chips and all their flavours,” said Brush. He explained that if you look for flavoured tortilla chips, the only brand people will come across is Doritos although Tostitos are now exploring the flavoured market.

“We thought, 'Why not bring some variety to that very big subcategory,'” he added. They began planning, and after a year of working out the details of the new company (Nellie O’Connors Inc.) that handles the chips, they launched their product in retailers at the beginning of 2017. Brush explained that some of the flavours they chose, including Mac and Cheese and Ketchup were taken out of O’Connor’s cookbook, while others like Thai Coconut and Korean Barbecue were created after the three men had a brainstorming session.

“We made a list of what we thought might work,” he said, adding that they got together with a seasoning seller who worked with them to get the tastes just right.

“We literally met with our seasoning guy and he had a few varieties and you would go back and forth," he explained. "There wasn’t enough bite on the Cream Cheese and Red Pepper Jelly initially, the other thing we do is apply a lot more seasoning than most companies do."

The whole operation is pretty homegrown, Brush explained. Instead of hiring taste testers, they bring the chips home and give them to family members for a trial run.

“I’d ask my girls and Ken would ask his younger family and my brother would take it into his company core pack and we’d just get people to try. Try it — it’s really that simple.”

When the newly formed company took their idea to Johnson, he thought it was an excellent idea but wanted a caveat put in place.

“Well, I wanted to sign a $1-million contract to use the name actually but that didn’t work out,” he said laughing.

“She’d have loved that, you know, with the face on there, (a picture of O’Connor graces every bag of chips) yeah, we thought that was great.”

So far, Nellie O'Connor's Tortilla Chips have made their way onto shelves in major super markets such as Zehr’s and Superstore, and the family hopes the line will continue to be successful.

“Whether they do or not, it’s still a good thing," said Johnson. "It’s good for her and her, I guess, legacy if that’s the right word."