This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

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."

Like many Kaysville residents, Frank Walters worked at the factory on and off for 23 years.

Walters started in spring 1957, his senior year at Davis High School, working on the cleanup crew and making $1.10 an hour. "That was a pretty good wage at the time," said Walters, now 76.

He attended Southern Utah State College (now university) in Cedar City, but he still worked in the summers and on holiday breaks. When he transferred to Weber State College (now university), Walters worked full time, doing various jobs — from making the corn chips and cheese nibbles to shipping and ultimately becoming a supervisor. When he got his college degree and became a teacher, Walters continued to work at Clover Club in the evenings, on weekends and during the summer to supplement his family's income.

Walters still recalls how the chips were made in those early days. Large 100-pound bags of potatoes would be dumped into a machine that would rub — not peel — the skins. The potatoes then were sent up a conveyor belt to the spinning slicer and down into a wash tank to remove the starch. They then went into the cooker.

"They'd cook at 375 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes. A paddle would keep them moving until it was time to come out," he said. " 'Chip girls,' as they were called, would stand near the conveyor, and as the chips came out of the cooker, it was their job to remove any that weren't fully cooked or were sticking together."

When it was all said and done, Walters explained, "we'd end up with 20 to 25 pounds of chips, when we started with 100 pounds."

Working in the shipping department, Walters had a front-row seat to the company's quick expansion. He remembers initially stocking six or seven delivery trucks two or three times a week.

Eventually, more delivery trucks were added and shipments went out daily. Warehouses were built in Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo and across the Intermountain West to keep up with demand. "It's fun to think that I was part of that," Walters said, adding that his wife, Anne, worked at the plant, as did his brothers and many friends.

Besides the paycheck, the culinary benefits were delicious.

"There wasn't anything better than a fresh chip that came out of the cooker," he said. "When they first started to make sour cream chips, those became my favorites."

And the smell?

"It went all through Kaysville for many years," Walters said. "It was a sad day when we saw that plant go down."

comments powered by Disqus