Ann Bernice Wodarski holds several special titles – not only is she turning 100 this July, but she is one of the last living original employees of the company that created Better Made potato chips in Detroit.
Wodarski, who now lives in Grand Rapids, worked at Better Made from 1934 to 1940. Known then as Cross and Peters after its two founders, Better Made Snack Foods operated out of a facility on McDougall in Detroit, making small batches of potato chips that Wodarski then sold in a small storefront.
“The history and the stories that Ann has told us are incredible,” says Cathy Gusmano, daughter of Peter Cipriano, one of the co-founders of Better Made.
“I know there are some people out there who remember working for us years ago and many people that remember coming to watch the chips get made when they were youngsters, but this is simply a wonderful experience. To think that she has been a loyal Better Made fan for 84 years is something to celebrate,” Gusmano said.
As an early birthday gift, Better Made sent Ann a very nice surprise package loaded with fun Better Made items.
Wodarski’s granddaughter, Michelle Beimers, said her grandmother left in 1940 to marry her husband, Casimir Wodarski. They had three kids, seven grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren, and one great-great granddaughter.
Working seven days a week
Ann worked seven days a week and earned $11 weekly for her work. One of Ann’s memories is bagging the “nickel bag” of chips while working at the McDougall facility. She said Cross Moceri and Pete Cipriano were “good guys” who took care of their employees, worked very hard to build the business and were generous with everyone around them.
“I lived across the street from the store, so that’s how I got the job,” Ann said. “I worked in the store there and the there were always five or six guys around – the drivers, the guys who fried the chips and the founders.
“It was a real good job and I liked it,” Ann said. “I remember Joe Leone (Better Made’s first employee) and Russ Leone, our saleman. Russ stood up in our wedding as well.”
Founded in 1930 in Detroit as Cross and Peters, Better Made continues to develop and provide a wide variety award-winning snack foods, including assorted regular and flavored potato chips and potato sticks, gourmet popcorn, pretzels, beef jerky, tortilla chips, pork rinds, wearables and more. The family-owned company uses locally grown potatoes and trans fat-free cottonseed oil.