On a roll
Building a legacy: Sausage company saga
By Barbara Young
The imprints of C.B. (Clifford Boyce) Owens and his wife Kate — who together planted a seed in 1928 that 75 years later has sprouted into a major contender within the realm of sausage-making — remain as an indelible reminder of a dream realized.
The journey began when the couple leased a 100-acre farm in Richardson, TX, and began making “country-style” sausage for a handful of customers on a neighbor’s weekly “butter and egg route.”
The business continues its pattern of growth in the facility the couple built in 1963, replacing their production plant in downtown Richardson, where their cottage industry first made its mark as a commercial enterprise beginning in 1947 — the year they captured their first wholesale outlet customer: the 17-location Dallas Food stores. Current customers represent top retail and wholesale accounts across the Southwest including Wal-Mart, HEB, Kroger, Albertsons, Brookshire Foods, United Supermarket, Grocer’s Supply, and Affiliated Foods.
The complex on East Lookout Drive retains its country farm persona in a community dominated by urban corporate architecture and four-lane highways. To be sure, the rolling green grounds of Owens Spring Creek Farm — the original family homestead and now home to company-owned miniature ponies and Belgians grazing in the grass side by side near a quiet pond— is a Norman-Rockwell-kind-of-setting. Other attractions include a museum depicting scenes of typical lifestyles in the 1920s, illustrated with a butcher shop, country store, country kitchen, and a farmer’s workshop. Antique wagons and other Owens memorabilia decorate a nearby barn.
How Owens Country Sausage — born in the state of Texas covering more than 268,000 square miles within its borders – grew from a side business on the farm into a modern corporation unfolds in timely milestones.
By 1955, Owens operated with a sales branch in Tyler, TX, followed later by more branches in Houston and San Antonio. Product went to market in 12 delivery trucks.
Owens grew into an interstate business with its first customers in Shreveport, LA, in 1963. A self-promotion campaign using a Belgian horse team to pull a company wagon in parades and other special events began that same year.
Jerry Owens, who learned the business under the tutelage of his parents beginning at age 5, succeeded his father as president in 1973.
Jerry Owens’ son Stewart, following his father’s route in business, became vice president in 1980 and the third-generation head of the business four years later as president and chief operating officer.
Ushering the family business to a new level, Stewart Owens negotiated its sale to Columbus, OH-based Bob Evans Farms in a stock transaction worth nearly $16 million, but retained his leadership position at Owens.
Recruited to join the parent company in an administrative capacity in 1990, Stewart Owens quickly moved from group vice president of food products to chairman of the board and chief executive officer at Bob Evans Farms.
Meanwhile, the Owens sausage business no doubt will keep on rolling.