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Whatever happened to ... the Clover Club potato chip factory in Kaysville?

First Published      Last Updated Jan 12 2016 12:56 pm

Editor's note: In this regular series, The Tribune explores the once-favorite places of Utahns, from restaurants to recreation to retail.

Years ago, the Clover Club potato chip factory was a steady presence in Kaysville.

It was one of the Davis County city's largest buildings, located on a 5-acre lot at 200 North and Fairfield Road, two of Kaysville's main thoroughfares.

It was also a major employer, offering hundreds of full- and part-time jobs, from loading the potatoes and cooking to working the chip line, where the uncooked or discolored duds were removed before packaging.

On occasion, the factory would send out an olfactory love letter to the city, a smell that blended hot cooking oil and starch.

"If you drove into Kaysville after being away for a long time, that smell would come back to you," remembers Bill Sanders, nephew of Hod and Clover Sanders, the Kaysville couple who founded the company in 1938.

While the Clover Club brand still exists — now part of Manuel's Fine Foods — the Kaysville factory closed about 15 years ago. Not long after, the city bought the property, razed the building and turned it into Heritage Park. More recently, a branch of the Davis County Library was built on the city property.

No doubt, Hod and Clover Sanders would be surprised at the road their small company has traveled.

After working various jobs in New York and California, including a stint at a snack-food company, Hod and Clover decided to start their own business. In 1938, they returned to Hod's hometown and borrowed money from a bank to buy potatoes and a secondhand cooker, said Bill Sanders. The couple rented space in a vacant warehouse on Main Street. Clover did the cooking, while Hod delivered chips to stores and households door to door. Initially, the goal was to make enough money to buy the potatoes needed for the next day's batch, Sanders said.

Once, when money was short, Clover sold her prized piano to keep the fledgling company afloat.

During the next six decades, Clover Club continued to grow, moving into a larger building before, in 1947, opening the plant at 95 E. 200 North, which was designed and built to manufacture potato chips.

The company expanded into Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico and Montana and acquired other potato chip companies in Texas and Colorado.

Bill Sanders said Clover Club also bought farms in Idaho to grow its own potatoes, and it coordinated its own trucking, ultimately growing into a major snack-food company with distribution in 13 Western states.

Timing played a big part in the company success, Sanders said, noting that the popularity of snack foods exploded after World War II, when rationing was lifted and Americans could once again indulge in sweet and salty treats.

Greg Bingham, currently a vice president at Tyson, started working at Clover Club in 1977 as a salesman on the Ogden and northern Utah route. He has continued to work for the company through all its acquisitions — and there have been many: Borden in 1983, Country Club Foods in 1994, Granny Goose Foods in 1997, Snakcorp in 2000, Don Julio Foods in 2005, Tyson Foods, 2013 and Manuel's Fine Foods 2015.

"When I started, we were 'the' main brand in the chip aisle," Bingham said. Now there are more snack options — from cheese puffs to tortilla chips — along with more labels.

"But we still have a good following," he said. "A lot of older people remember the name, even if their kids don't."

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