By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — For a century, the aroma of freshly baked potato chips emanated from the white clapboard building that once stood at 227 N. Broadway.
Granite State Potato Chips is gone, the building razed. It’s being replaced by a 5,400-square-foot structure — and the smell of freshly baked doughnuts.
Dunkin’ Donuts is expected to open around July 4 and three other businesses would lease space there, according to site supervisor Matt Breault of KDB Enterprise. The shop is one of several Dunkin’ Donuts franchises owned by local businessman Anthony Quadros.
The project received site plan approval from the town Planning Board in March 2012, and was granted a variance by the Zoning Board of Adjustment a year earlier, town planning director Ross Moldoff said.
Work at the site began in January, Breault said. Yesterday, approximately 15 workers were busy getting the building ready, which included putting up siding, he said.
“We will work up to the last day,” Breault said.
Dunkin’ Donuts will occupy 2,000 square feet on the first floor, with approximately 1,500 square feet of adjacent space available for retail, Breault said. There are two units on the second floor — each about 1,000 square feet — available as office space, he said.
But regardless of the businesses that move there, the North Broadway site will probably always be best known as the former location of Granite State Potato Chips.
It was an institution in Salem until closing in 2007 after 102 years, but the company’s sign still stands on the property.
Granite State Potato Chips was so popular that many people stop by to check out the construction and reminisce, Breault said.
Breault, whose company is based in Dracut, said he wasn’t familiar with the potato chip business until he began working there.
“No, but everyone else is,” he said.
The company, founded by William J. Croft and owned and operated by several generations of his family, earned a glowing reputation for its freshly baked chips. They were sold in white plastic buckets with the profile of the Old Man of the Mountain part of its widely recognized logo.
Selectman Patrick Hargreaves, who grew up down the street, recalled yesterday the smell of baking chips when he would open his front door or a window.
While playing at a nearby field, that smell was too much for a young boy to ignore, he said.
What was even better was when owner William “Buddy” Croft — a descendant of the founder — would give Hargreaves and his friends handfuls of chips.
“Granite State Potato Chips was awesome,” said Hargreaves, now 51. “We used to go there all the time and get a bucketful of chips.”
Inside was a well-known photo of President Dwight Eisenhower tearing open a bag of Granite State Chips during a visit to New Hampshire.
Moldoff, also a longtime Salem resident, said Granite State Potato Chips earned a legacy of its own in town.
He said one of the most unusual calls he received during his many years at Town Hall was from a woman who complained about the business.
Trees between Granite State Potato Chips and her property had just been cut down, he said.
“She said her clothes on her clothesline now smelled like potato chips,” he said. “It was kind of neat to have (the company) in town. It was unique.”