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The Way the Kale Chip Crumbles

An accidental snack-food success story.

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Amy Hamberry didn’t plan on becoming a snack-food magnate when she walked into New York Naturals, the Park Slope health-food shop, three years ago. She stopped in for a Cleansing Cocktail (carrot-apple-beet-and-ginger juice), and ended up marrying the owner, Joe Orr. And now Hamberry, a commercial illustrator and onetime kindergarten teacher, finds herself embroiled in a new profession: transforming kale, the entirely virtuous, dark-green-leafed vegetable, into an irresistible, only slightly less virtuous snack chip that’s poised to take over the health-food-store world. The journey began almost a year ago, when Hamberry and Orr decided to surmount supply and billing issues with their California kale-chip purveyor by making their own. This required the purchase of a dehydrator, Internet recipe research, and much experimentation. The result was Doritos for health nuts: raw, vegan, delectably crispy wafers, made from kale leaves laboriously massaged with a cheesy-tasting coating of pulverized cashews, cayenne, red peppers, and lemon juice, and air-dried at 115 degrees for up to fifteen hours. Soon, the burgeoning kale-chip business displaced the juice bar, and this week, the couple move production to a 750-square-foot space they leased in a solar-powered Crown Heights warehouse. Since last May, Hamberry has added three new flavors (spicy miso, pumpkin-hemp, and pineapple), and managed to infiltrate the racks at the Park Slope Food Co-op—a huge coup for the Brooklyn native—in addition to shops like Perelandra, LifeThyme, and Westerly. As for New York Naturals itself, a rent hike combined with the economic downturn will force Hamberry and Orr to close the store within weeks, but their newly christened enterprise, the Kale Chip Factory, will live on in the actual Bergen Street kale-chip factory, and online at nynshop.com.


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