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Branding company with a famous name marks 10th anniversary

Eskimo Joe's Promotional Products Group applies the branding they've used to make a hole-in-the-wall a household name to other businesses.
by Jennifer Palmer Modified: September 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm •  Published: September 13, 2012

Eskimo Joe's founder Stan Clark never meant to start a T-shirt company.

He just wanted to open a bar.

But as the business of that little juke joint (which is still jumpin' near the Oklahoma State University campus) evolved, so did Clark's companies. And one that doesn't serve food, Eskimo Joe's Promotional Products Group, which is 10 years old, is now poised to surpass the others in annual sales and become the most profitable.

Clark often explains the company to potential clients like this: we do our branding for your company. They design logos and print T-shirts and other clothes for businesses, organizations, restaurants and retailers.

It seems like a natural progression for Eskimo Joe's, which has arguably the most recognizable and popular logo of any hole-in-the-wall eatery around.

But it was still a gamble for Clark, who at one point during construction of the 35,000-square-foot warehouse and printing facility in an industrial area near Stillwater Regional Airport, sat in the parking lot and thought: what am I doing?

But he knows. He gives tours of the presses with gusto, explaining each step in the T-shirt printing process, from burning the screens to applying color after color and finishing with a retail fold, something their clients appreciate immensely.

Clients are welcomed to the facility with a personalized graphic displayed on a flat screen monitor inside the showroom, which shelves hundreds of products that can be printed with the company's name like high-end, name brand polos and jackets to pens, cups and other useful trinkets.

How it began

Many people have heard the story of Eskimo Joe's, which was founded by Clark and his business partner, Steve File, in 1975.

They enlisted the help of an art student to design the logo (paid him $35) and started selling T-shirts featuring a toothy Eskimo named Joe and his dog, Buffy, on opening day.

When Oklahoma's drinking age was raised to 21 in 1983, Eskimo Joe's began serving food and converted the bar to a full-service restaurant. The shirts' popularity continued.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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