The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh
(page 3 of 11)
By SEAN COLLIER
images courtesy CLARK
There aren’t too many Pittsburgh success stories more fitting than the tale of David L. Clark. Born in 1864 in Ireland, Clark immigrated to the United States at age 8; unable to devote time to a traditional education, the young man immediately began working at a string of odd jobs and eventually took business classes by night.
He founded the D.L. Clark Company in 1886 in a row house on the North Side, initially selling his confections on the street. The brand, and the company, took off during the following decades.
Generations of Pittsburghers recognize Clark by the neon sign that once adorned the building at 503 Martindale St., not far from the spot where the company was founded. While the sign no longer is in place, the longstanding Clark Bar & Grill on the ground floor of that building maintains the brand’s legacy.
While the NECCO company purchased Clark in 1999, Pittsburgh maintains a taste for Clark Bars. “It still has a huge following in western Pennsylvania,” says Michael McGee, president and CEO of Necco. “That is still its geographic home.”
- Clark’s legacy isn’t limited to the bar bearing the company name. Among the company’s many other confectionary inventions was the Zagnut bar, still manufactured today by Hershey.
- Predating the “fun size” varieties of candy bars found especially around Halloween, Clark began manufacturing a 5-cent version of its signature bar, which was wrapped individually. Originally crafted for soldiers during World War I, it became popular with the public in the years that followed.
- The famous Clark sign — which spelled out the letters in the chocolate bar’s name at night — may no longer overlook the city, but it hasn’t gone far. You still can find it behind the Clark Bar & Grill; it’s visible from Reedsdale Street.
- At its apex, the company was manufacturing almost 2 million Clark bars (and about 6 million sticks of gum) every day.
- There’s still sweet stuff being offered at the North Side location where the D.L. Clark Company was founded. The building at 528 E. Ohio St. (which was rebuilt in 1910 but stands on the spot of the original Clark site) now houses Priory Fine Pastries.
“It was exciting to have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and be the first ones to bring back this brand. It was such a great brand, and it was such a great name; it hadn’t been advertised for years, but everybody knew the name! I think the brilliance — you might call this luck of the Irish, [because Clark] was an Irishman — it was back in the early 1900s, and he had a great product ... The packaging was simple; it was the perfect name for a candy bar, just the right number of letters. And it caught on. I’m not sure what the early marketing was, but the iconic campaign using zoo animals to say, “I want a Clark Bar,” in the early days of television — it was that combination. It was a great product, well packaged and they had a great advertising campaign behind it ... It stuck in people’s minds even after it kind of went away. People remembered it, and they remembered it for all of the right reasons.”
— Ray Werner, former creative director, Ketchum Communications; founder, Werner Chepelsky
As this collection of Clark wrapper designs and advertisements shows, the candy bar’s iconic packaging hasn’t changed too much since its introduction. It maintains its classic color scheme and font today.