Clark Knew How To Design A Business


This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News
on May 2, 1992

CLARK KNEW HOW TO DESIGN A BUSINESS -
HIS EMPLOYEES CONTINUE THE TRADITION

by Roz Young

 

            Roland Clark was an artistic chap, who upon graduation from the University of Utah in the late 1920s,took a job as a salesman for the Logan Knit Co. in Logan, Utah. Over the years he advanced to sales manager and designer. In 1936 he decided to go into business for himself. He looked the country over and chose Dayton as a location.

            He rented space on the third floor over the Victory Theatre (now the Victoria) and opened the Logan Knit Co. Later he changed the name to Roland Originals and moved to 135 N. Jefferson St.

            He designed and manufactured dresses, blouses, suits and coats for women. By 1950 his Roland Originals had a large office staff and 65 salesmen traveling all over the country.

            Clark was an unusual boss. He provided a recreation area for the office workers. He kept a speed boat on Indian Lake and often took his employees for an outing there; he took them to the Reds games and started a bowling team for them. There were always many hugs and kisses.

            Twice a year the company held sales conventions to introduce the new lines. The summer convention was held out of town and everybody went. The winter convention was a three-day event at the Van Cleve Hotel. The staff prepared salesmen's books with drawings and descriptions of the new fashions and swatches of the new fabrics. Clark hired models to show off the season's new designs - it was just like the big fashion design shows in New York. Models also appeared in the public dining rooms at the Van Cleve Hotel and appeared at local banquets and fund-raising events.

            Clark did the designing. He would dream up a costume or get an idea by draping fabric on a model or dummy, or he would go a French showing in Paris where for a fee - usually about $500 - designers could sketch the new styles.

            He then turned his designs over to Bob Gilbert, who set up and ran the knitting machine. Each costume was made to order and by knitting his own fabrics, Clark was able to produce costumes that could not be duplicated by other manufacturers. They were originals. During the war, Clark had to buy manufactured fabrics for about half his designs.

            Lee Jordan, confined to a wheel chair, supervised sales from the Dayton office. Salesmen fanned out all over the country and the orders rolled in.

            Roland Originals sales were about $1 million annually, and the company at its height had about 125 employees.

            Clark opened an outlet shop at 110 N. Main St. where he sold samples, costume jewelry and fashions not included in the current line.

            The good times rolled until 1958 when Clark died. His widow attempted to continue the business, but the magic touch was gone and the company went out of business in 1959.

            Several years later, 18 of the women who had worked closely together got together for a Christmas party. Then they made it an annual party until a few years ago when they felt that a year was too long to wait. Ten who remain of the original 18 - some have died and some have moved away - still meet twice a year. Joy Staup, Ruthanna Austin, Bonnie Harvey, Hazel Riggleman, Mavis Dysken, Polly Brenner, Gloria Whisler, Ilene Giliam, Nina Patterson and Harriet Schwarzman pay $2 a year dues. They used to go out for dinner, but now they meet at lunch time, either in a restaurant in a home, depending on the preference of the hostess of the day.

            Dayton has many groups that stay together long after the institution where the group was formed has vanished. Rike's has a group that meets monthly, and many classes of local high schools that closed long ago continue to meet and lift their weakening voices in "Cheer for Steele High School" or "It was the good ship Stivers High" or "O hear our song of praise, dear Roosevelt."

            Loyalty to departed institutions dies slowly.