Marie and Charles Vitner founded the C.J. Vitner Company in 1926. The Company was
originally formed as a collection of retail outlets consisting of five storefront shops selling candy, magazines, tobacco products and ice cream on the south side of Chicago.
Once the Great Depression began and, with sales dwindling, Charles started looking for other opportunities to keep his business going. He saw the tavern businesses flourishing and thought that selling to the tavern trade would help his business during those trying times. He decided that snack foods would be the ideal product for the local bars.
Charles invested in a popcorn machine, which he put in his store on south Ashland Ave. The stores sold the fresh popcorn in paper bags to their walk-in customers. Charles then put the excess popcorn in five-gallon pails and peddled them to the local taverns out of the back seat of his car.
The concept went over well. Charles started distributing other items, such as potato chips and pretzels to his growing list of tavern customers.
By the end of the 1930's, Charles had 6 route trucks on the street selling exclusively to the tavern trade. He provided everything the tavern needed from soups to glassware and, of course, popcorn, potato chips and pretzels.
In the late 1940's, Charles' son, James Vitner, just out of the Army Air Corp, joined his father in the business and started looking for ways to grow the business. In the early 1960's, with Jim's foresight, Vitners built a distribution facility at 6010 S. Kedzie in Chicago. By that time they had 13 route trucks and a budding wholesale department selling a complete line of snack foods to schools, jobbers, vendors etc.
The 1970's saw another great expansion for the Vitner Co. An additional building was purchased at 59th & Kedzie to ease the congestion at 6010 S. Kedzie. With Charles looking to retire, Bill Vitner, Jim's son, joined the Vitner organization and the Company moved to a larger facility at 4343 S. Tripp Ave on Chicago's southwest side.
Until 1977, the C.J. Vitner Company distributed only other company's brands, such as Fairmont Foods, Chesty, Blue Star and Rold Gold Pretzels. The Vitners knew that if they wanted to continue to grow, they would need to establish their own label and get into manufacturing.
In 1977 that opportunity presented itself when a potato chip manufacturing company called Blue Star Foods out of Loves Park, Illinois went up for sale. Jim and Bill knew that this was a golden opportunity and purchased the 10-acre manufacturing facility lock, stock and barrel.
With the Vitner name now appearing on the packaging, the Company really began to flourish. A 100,000 square foot facility at 4202 W. 45th St was purchased to handle the Chicago land demand for the Vitner line of snacks.
In the 1980's the Vitner Company slowly transformed itself from its strong tavern base to the convenience store and supermarket trade. By the mid 1980's Vitners had 70 Direct Store Delivery routes and 6 Wholesale Distribution routes serving the Chicago land market.
In 1987 the Loves Park manufacturing facility was modernized and expanded. The 4.5 million dollar project included a state of the art kitchen and the most advanced machinery available at that time. Vitners was not only servicing Illinois and the Chicago market but also had distributors in eight other states selling the Vitner brand in their local areas.
As the Company moved into the 1990's, management saw that they were rapidly outgrowing the Loves Park plant which was landlocked and had been expanded in the past to it's fullest capacity. Sites all across the Midwest were considered and a 55-acre site in Freeport, Illinois was eventually chosen.
Construction started on the Freeport plant in the early 1990's. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place in February of 1992 and was received with much fanfare from the local press and government officials. The plant was the most modern snack food producing facility in the country with all state-of-the-art equipment. Whereas the Loves Park plant only produced potato chips and popcorn, the addition of the Freeport plant added extruded products, corn chips, corn pops and tortilla chips to the Vitner brand snack line.
Vitners continues to grow in the 21st century. The Freeport plant has since added another 20,000 square feet to handle expansion. Vitners has now expanded to 3 distribution centers anchored by the main distribution center and corporate headquarters at 4202 W. 45th Street in Chicago. Additional distribution centers have been added in Northwest Indiana and in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs. Vitner products are now sold in approximately 20 states through its extensive distribution network.
To this day, the C.J. Vitner Company is proud of the fact that it is one of the only continuously family owned and operated snack food companies in the country. Their commitment to their employees and customers has continued to grow over the last eighty years and Vitners looks forward to its continued future growth as a major snack food manufacturer.