In 1975 Oscar Edmonds, III had a dream of owning his own business, and with a baby on the way, he was more than motivated to turn that dream into a reality. At the time, there was a popular upscale restaurant in Memphis called Café St. Clair (closed now) that was famous for their salad dressings, including the ever-popular Blue Cheese Dressing. In addition to the restaurant, they sold the dressings to local grocery stores, making them at a small offsite kitchen. The owners wanted to focus on the restaurant so they sold the retail business to Oscar on April 1, 1976. St. Clair’s original two employees, Josie Stevenson and Linda Gregory, worked with Oscar to produce and bottle, by hand, the St. Clair salad dressings for retail sales. They were a huge success in the Memphis area, and St. Clair Foods is still famous today for those three salad dressings, Thousand Island, Honey French, and especially the Blue Cheese. Josie worked at St. Clair for 38 years, retiring in 2013, and Linda is still part of the St. Clair Family today.
Anxious to expand his product line, Oscar and the St. Clair team began developing refrigerated deli salads under the St. Clair Foods label, including old fashioned pimento cheese spread, chicken salad, tuna salad, potato salad, and cole slaw. They saw an opportunity in the early 1980s to shift from the retail market to the foodservice sector and began selling St. Clair salads and salad dressings in bulk packages to a foodservice distributor in Memphis, targeting local restaurants. By the late 1980s St. Clair Foods had become a key supplier to major foodservice distributors around the Southeast, and continued slowly expanding into new areas outside the region. Staying ahead of the ever changing demands of the marketplace, they were constantly creating new recipes and expanding their product line. Trends came and went, but one thing stayed the same: St. Clair’s commitment to quality, a commitment which continues to this day. In addition, as the science behind food safety became available in the industry, St. Clair Foods adopted early on many of the stringent food safety initiatives that still exist today.
In the mid-1990s St. Clair Foods ventured into new territory, working directly with small to medium sized chain restaurants in producing custom, private label cooked and frozen products. St. Clair also created its own line of frozen products and quickly became famous for their southern style, homemade-tasting side dishes and entrees, like their Dutch Crust Sweet Potato Casserole and Chicken and Dumplings. In 2004 they took their side dishes to the airwaves when they became a regular on the popular TV shopping channel, QVC, where you can still see them today from time to time.
Now in its second generation of family ownership, St. Clair Foods is still a family run business. Oscar’s son Brian and daughter Lauren work together with their dad and the St. Clair family every day, helping to grow St. Clair into the vision that Oscar had in 1976. From 800 square feet to over 125,000 square feet and from the original 3 to now 225 St. Clair family members, St. Clair has expanded and grown, while still upholding the original family values and quality standards instilled in the company many years ago.