I think of the unlikely and extraordinary success we have had in both the Clark family and at Clayco in a series of notable moments. Seminal moments.
Starting Clayco in 1984 with basically no experience and no capital, with only a pickup truck and willpower, we began doing simple interior finish projects: carpet, painting, drywall, and doors. That led to an account at Mercantile Bank doing the same work. A lucky break came in meeting the bank’s VP of facilities, John Ward, and eventually the bank’s chairman, Don Lasater. I got an even bigger break building multiple banks for Mercantile when I was partnered with a well-known, local St. Louis architect, Robert (Bob) Boland.
Meeting Bob was indeed one of those seminal moments. Bob was an architect at PGAV and started his own firm in 1975. He quickly became the “developers’’ architect and did significant work for Linclay, a substantial, top developer in the Midwest that Dale Perkinson founded. Dale had retired to the US Virgin Islands and was a legend in the industry by the time I started Clayco. Try as I might, I had failed to get an opportunity with the local established developers, including Linclay. Then fate intervened. In 1988, a tremendous economic downturn brought Dale Perkinson back to STL to execute a turnaround of Linclay. He quickly turned to Bob Boland as his architect partner, and Bob recommended I be added to the team as a young, aggressive, get-it-done upstart builder.
I remember the meeting in Dale’s office like it was yesterday. I was 28 years old and weighed about 158 pounds the year of the downturn. I was so nervous I was shaking, and I thought if I could get 15 minutes with Dale, I would be lucky. The meeting lasted an hour and a half. Dale was charming, charismatic, and curious.
Although I had not planned on presenting my vision, it spilled out, including my desire to try Tilt-up concrete in the Midwest. Dale was fascinated by the product and its innovative possibilities for achieving a competitive advantage. Something must have sparked during that meeting because we formed a partnership within a few weeks: Dale, his amazing wife and business partner Lorraine, Bob Boland, and me and my team.
Together, we developed multiple business parks and almost 18 million square feet of projects. The Musketeers. Meeting Dale was the catapult that started it all. When he and Lorraine retired in 1995, Clayco formed Clayco Realty Group with many of the Perkinson Realty team, who are still doing incredible work nationwide today.
I’m filled with tremendous sadness and a head full of great memories upon hearing the news of Dale’s passing last week. Dale was my greatest mentor, a father figure, a partner, and a close family friend. His sense of adventure and “can do” attitude was contagious, and there would be no Clayco as it is today had it not been for that fateful meeting in 1988.