Kar’s: How a Street Vendor Turned Her Nuts Into a Million-Dollar Business: Detroit, Michigan
You’ve known about their existence for years. You casually see them at the checkout lanes in the grocery stores and other shops. Many Michigan bars, lounges, and saloons stock and serve them to thirsty customers. Yeah, like most of us, we take Kar’s nuts for granted. We’ve seen ‘em and eaten ‘em for years, but did we ever wonder how long they’ve been around? Or where they’re made? Probably not.
Well, Kar’s is a 100% Michigan product. According to Encyclopedia.com, it began during the Great Depression. Ohioans John & Sue Karpe moved to Detroit, Michigan, looking for work. They both found jobs, with Sue’s being in a candy company. They soon moved into a house that just happened to be near Navin Field (the original name of Tiger Stadium). In 1933, Sue figured she could make some extra bucks by selling peanuts outside of the baseball stadium, catching the crowd as they were about to enter the stadium. Sue roasted peanuts at home, then carted them down to Navin Field where she made some good cash.
Finally, in 1939, with a significant amount of extra cash, the Karpes turned the peanut-selling into a corporation. Sue made deliveries to many local shops, general stores, and bars, and soon acquired the nickname “Miss Kar”. She took that new nickname and ran with it, making the Kar’s logo that featured a woman driving a little peanut car with the words “Nuts to you from Kar’s”.
Six years later – in 1939 – Sue’s nut biz finally became incorporated. The headquarters were originally in Detroit, then moved to Madison Heights. During World War II, Kar’s snacks were popular with service men and women…then in 1946 after the war, the company left Madison Heights and moved to 1525 Wanda Street in Ferndale. Some of the photos you’ll see in the gallery below show Kar’s memorabilia with the name “Ferndale” on them.
In 1967, Sue sold the business – the new owners got rid of that kool peanut car logo, wanting to ‘update’ the look. The Ferndale location lasted for almost sixty years, and in 2004, the company packed up and moved again – back to Madison Heights where they remain.
Since leaving the Ferndale address, the building was taken over by another peanut company, ‘Rocky Peanut’ (now gone).
Kar’s snacks and its subsidiary, Second Nature, have become two of the best-selling brands of trail mix sold in the United States. Located at 1200 14 Mile Road, Suite B, Madison Heights, I wonder if Kar’s does tours?
Check out the gallery below…then go out and grab some nuts.
Kar's Nuts Mementos
MORE SNACKY STUFF: