Pretty much every weekend, Robert Clements makes pancakes Saturdays and waffles Sundays. When he cooks either, he always uses the syrup made by his family-owned business, Clements Foods Co.
Based in Oklahoma City, the company — which makes preserves, peanut butter, condiments, vinegar and more — was founded by his late grandfather Richard J. Clements and father Richard H. “Dick” Clements in 1953 when they bought an existing enterprise in southwest Oklahoma City.
In 1957, they moved the plant and warehouse to its current location at 6601 N Harvey, where they've expanded to 150,000 square feet on 18 acres. The nearby railroad makes it convenient to receive corn sweeteners, soy bean oil and other raw materials.
Though Clements Foods products are sold under the label Garden Club at most local groceries, 95 percent of its inventory is trucked outside of the state, largely to Texas, said Robert Clements, executive vice president. Some orders are exported to Mexico; others ship out of the Port of Houston to the Middle East.
On the bulk of the products, the manufacturer places private labels for grocery store chains or food distributors. The company makes more than 1,000 different uniquely-labeled products.
Clements Foods is debt-free and has annual revenues of $75 million, Clements said.
The company employs 225, including some 35 who work at a nut roasting and peanut butter manufacturing facility in Lewisville, Texas, which the family bought out of bankruptcy court in 1989, he said.
From his grandfather's old desk, which is now his, Clements, 55, sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: Of course, my dad worked here and my mom was a homemaker to me and my two brothers. My younger brother, Ed, is company president. He manages sales and marketing, while my focus is finance and administration.
My older brother, Richard, is a partner in the local Krispy Kreme franchise and has an interest in a local plastics company. I attended Casady School, which was a great place to be. I was a pretty good student and a piano player. I took lessons from the second through 12th grades but, much to my mother's chagrin, gave up playing. We have a piano in our home that belonged to my wife's grandmother. But if I played it, it wouldn't sound nice.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: We lived on the same street growing up — Hillcrest, where my parents still live. And her brother and I were in the same class at Casady. She's older than I am, but I always knew of SodyMcCampbell. We started dating after socializing at the parties and wedding of her brother, who married my second cousin.
Q: Where'd you go to college?
A: Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., where I adhered to the school motto, “work hard, play hard.” I studied economics, joined a local fraternity — Kappa Kappa Kappa — and sang in the glee club.
These two drawings (hanging in his office) are of the school. They were advertised in the alumni magazine and were done by Oklahoma City artist Greg Burns, so I decided I needed them. Following graduation, I went directly to business school at Northwestern. I convinced them I had some business experience, growing up in the family business. Summers during high school, I worked on the production line — typically on the end of the line, picking up cases and stacking them on pallets. I also made mayonnaise and salad dressing.
Q: What are your biggest sellers?
A: Peanut butter and jelly. Everyone knows they go together. Peanut butter represents 40 percent of our sales, or $30 million annually. We roast 26 million pounds of peanuts a year; some 87,000 pounds a day. Preserves are No. 2, with grape jelly first, followed by strawberry preserves.
Q: What would you do, if you weren't doing this?
A: I'm a frustrated amateur architect. I bought my home in Nichols Hills in '88 when the real estate market was soft, tore it down and rebuilt it. It was one of the most fun things I ever did … visualizing it, planning it and seeing it come together.
By the time Sody and I married, it was time to pick carpet and paint, so she was a big part of the decorating. I planned the outside and floor plans, which are pretty traditional.