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'Bigger and better and stronger than ever': Covered Bridge Chips president sets sights for late 2025 rebuild after fire

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Ryan Albright is going on three months with little sleep – but he feels the chips are finally falling into place.

The president of Covered Bridge Chips has been trying to organize temporary production lines, supply chains and design plans since a fire leveled the company’s main factory the evening of March 1.

The business has been a New Brunswick success story for the past 15 years, evident by the number of messages of support on social media in the days after the fire – and by those who bought shelves-worth of the chips.

“When the factory burnt, we checked our inventory. We thought we had maybe enough for three weeks, but the way the product was selling, some people were buying to support, and some people were panic buying because they didn't think they'd ever see our product again,” he said.

“We probably could have sold all of our product in three or four days. So, we had to just kind of ship out minimal amounts here and there just to kind of keep us at bay until we got supply chain started back up.”

The president of Covered Bridge Chips in New Brunswick, Ryan Albright, is pictured in this image taken May 29, 2024.

Today, they’re using every single square foot of processing space they can find in about 10 different factories and locations, still only able to produce about 30 per cent of their normal supply.

Albright is hoping that increases in the coming weeks and months, as they build several seasoning lines in a renovated warehouse in Woodstock, N.B.

He’s still buying all the materials he would normally need from suppliers, not wanting to hurt their bottom line – saying he’ll need them when they’re back to 100 per cent.

“Our supply chain in the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada, we've tried to protect that as best as we can for our route drivers. I think we've done a pretty good job of maintaining that. I mean, look, that's where we started. That's our roots and that's our backyard,” he said.

They’re doing a rotation of products in Eastern Canadian Costco locations over the next five to six weeks – which are selling extremely well, Albright says.

It’s all been a juggling act of insurance meetings, design plans and equipment delays - many nights, he says he’s been sleeping just a few hours.

However, he’s hoping concrete could be poured for the new factory by the fall, potentially reopening in late 2025 - on the same site in Waterville, N.B., using more of their land.

A fire leveled Covered Bridge Chips' main factory on March 1, 2024.

The plant employed about 200 people. Some are back, working in the temporary locations.

The MLA for the area, Bill Hogan, says Opportunities New Brunswick is working to try and help anyone still unemployed.

Albright says the support has been incredibly helpful.

“I know when we get through this we're going to be much bigger and better and stronger than ever. It’s just going to be a little bit of a bumpy road. But I've had those over the years. This is just another one,” he said.

The company is also planning a charity golf tournament in Hartland, N.B., scheduled for July 25, with proceeds going to first responders.

“Because of what they did that night for us,” Albright said. “They were very fast to react. It was very hard and dangerous.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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