By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
In a world where you can get anything and everything on a moment’s notice, successful companies stand apart from the crowd by delivering more. Entrepreneur Stan Clark adds a smile into every transaction through his five ventures – Eskimo Joe’s, Mexican Joe’s and the planned American grill/bowling themed restaurants, Joe’s Clothes, and Eskimo Joe’s Promotional Products Group. He invited industry suppliers and customers to gather on the campus of Oklahoma State University to learn more about his vision – creating lifelong relationships through branded success – at the ninth annual EJPPG Client Day.
“Eskimo Joe’s has been able to leverage their strong brands and branding skills in restaurants, retail outlets, apparel decorating and screenprinting into a successful and growing promotional products business,” said Paul Bellantone, Promotional Products Association International president. “Most of the group’s employees come from one of their other businesses and bring a retail and hospitality background, feel and culture to their client services on the promotional products side.”
EJPPG opened in 2002 with the mission of creating remarkable marketing solutions under the simple philosophy of offering a wide selection of leading products at competitive prices.
“Not everyone can afford a Super Bowl commercial or a blimp sign,” Bellantone said, sharing the $19 billion-plus promotional products industry provides an efficient marketing tool.
Promotional products “tell your company’s story – and there is no other media that sends a message of thank you from clothes to pens to drinkware – all different kinds of products – millions of products that can be branded with a logo,” he said.
The founder of Eskimo Joe’s learned what a logo was in his one marketing class at OSU. As a 22-year-old graduate, Clark and a friend opened a bar near the college in 1975 which included selling a T-shirt created with magic markers by an art student. The simple design of a universal theme – a boy and his dog – depicted a toothy Eskimo in a parka hood and a lip-smacking dog named Buffy grinning from ear to ear. The T-shirts were sold out of a closet, morphing into a household name as one of the most recognizable and popular logos of any hole-in-the-wall drinking spot – Stillwater’s own “jumpin’ little juke joint.”
“It was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me,” Clark said. “... and, it meant the world to me that they bought the shirts and wore them.”
Joe’s Clothes developed from the T-shirt sales and now is one of EJPPG’s biggest customers.
“It was logical to get into the business. We can buy direct – and then pass a better price on to our customers,” Clark said. “We have the skill set to do world class screenprinting so we’re letting people take advantage of our excess capacity.”
The extra printing capacity was a confluence of events in the mid-1990s after the OSU basketball team earned a spot in the Final Four during a physical game that left Cowboy player Scott Pierce missing a tooth.
“The campus went wild – utter mayhem ensued,” Clark said.
The Eskimo Joe’s staff designed “Toothless in Seattle,” playing on the Final Four venue and a popular movie at the time, “Sleepless in Seattle.” The shirt depicted Joe mid-dunk with his signature smile minus a tooth. Stillwater was ecstatic with the win and the shirts were so successful, Eskimo Joe’s couldn’t keep up. People were waiting in line for shirts that hadn’t been printed – so Clark enlisted the help of every screenprinter in the state to meet demand. Fans bought them coming off the printing press, which were sold while they were still warm. From the slam dunk success of that shirt, Clark began building the printing plant in 1998 to the tune of $2.5 million.
“They say you don’t build the church sanctuary for Easter Sunday,” Clark said. “But, we built this facility for another success like Toothless in Seattle – the hottest shirt we ever had. We’ re still waiting for that next best seller.”
To utilize the creative staff and printing presses when they are not working on Joe’s Clothes, the natural evolution was to form EJPPG to extend their services to other companies. From the very latest fashion trends and embellishments to the most exquisite of quality brands, EJPPG now represents more than 3,500 suppliers bringing their creative magic to other businesses with an online catalog at www.ejppg.com. Today, around 60 percent of EJPPG’s business is printing for Eskimo Joe’s and 40 percent for other companies – but every year they are getting closer to eclipsing the production toward printing more for others. More than 600,000 Eskimo Joe’s cups flow through the facility every year. EJPPG represents about 30 percent of profits for Stan Clark’s companies and 10 percent of the more than 500 employees.
“This coming year will be our biggest gross yet,” he said.
EJPPG President John Killam said in “sharing the Eskimo Joe’s name – we are a case study in knowing how to brand. If we can do it for ourselves, we can help others brand their business.”
The print shop facility at 3904 North Land Rund Drive near the Stillwater Regional Airport boasts a promotional products showroom and offices for graphic designers and marketers known as branding consultants who work with businesses and organizations to create campaigns with the potential to build the same type of cult following of Eskimo Joe’s. They have won lots of hearts in the business-to-business level with their finished products and “going the extra step” like folding shirts and organizing them by sizes before shipment. This makes it much easier for the end user and helps them with their inventory.
“We work as a team to really take care of the needs of the client,” said Amy Jackson, EJPPG internal branding consultant director. “It’s not just about selling a product but reviewing the best way to accomplish telling a client’s story. We’re giving all we’ve got to make you look good.”
With 39 years in the hospitality business, Clark said they do their best to delight every guest each day and he has brought his enthusiastic “gift of friendship” to the mission of EJPPG. The business has been re-energizing and “if you love what you do, it’s not like working.” He said there is only one reason to go into business – “to make money. You have to make money – after that – good things can happen.”
Eskimo Joe's Promotional Products Group
Sales Office and Showroom
3904 North Land Run Drive, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74075