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Gresham's John Clark puts his stamp of approval on community

Clark owns Stamp-Connection where employees are treated like family

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JODI WEINBERGER - John Clark, owner of Stamp-Connection, says values his employees and customers over profits.Though his business is rubbers stamps, John Clark approaches the life he’s built through his Gresham store with the opposite of that “anything goes” mentality.

Stamp-Connection, at 109 N.E. Roberts Ave., owned by Clark, is first and foremost a rubber stamp customization business. Clark also does some engraving and embossing, but what he does not do is trade in postage stamps, though he’s often asked to.

“A lot of times people come in and want to show us their stamp and they’ll say, ‘Hey I got this, what do you think it’s worth?’” Clark said. “I say, ‘I don’t know, looks like it says 32 cents’.”

Clark is an involved businessman and community member, and on Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, he was also a doting step-grandfather to a boisterous little girl who had the day off from school and demanded that he stop his work to re-attach the head of her doll.

Clark’s calling is, for sure, not rubber stamps, but he saw the business as a means to impact people’s lives and the greater community.

His involvement in the rubber stamp industry began when he was an employee for another rubber stamp company in Portland. After several years, he realized he could do it better.

The business model of rubber stamps appealed to him — “You buy a $2 stamp and sell it for $20” — and owning his own business had always been the dream.

Recently, he got the business call of a lifetime to fly to Vermont to meet with Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, to make rubber stamps for Cohen’s political activism group, The Stampede.

The nonprofit organization was formed to “stamp money out of politics.” The gist is that people buy stamps, made by Clark, and then use them on their bills to spread awareness. The stamps have different messages such as “Not to be used for bribing politicians” and “stamp money out of politics.”

“I think everyone should be into politics,” Clark said.

It’s one of the reasons he chose to locate in Gresham. When Clark picked the city for his business in 2001, he saw it as a place he could become involved. He later bought a home in Gresham to participate in local elections.

Clark said he became “kind of the expert” in the best way to stamp on money after he got involved with the WheresGeorge.com, a currency tracking project. Participants enter the serial number from a bill into the Where’s George website and it starts a record of where the bill has been. When the next person who has the bill enters it into the website, the location is updated and everyone who entered the bill is notified. Clark sells the stamps for the bills that say “Track me at www.wheresgeorge.com”.

Through his business he’s helped support local charities like SnowCap and is a long-time member of the Gresham Rotary, of which he’s the secretary.

He also takes great care with his 10 employees, most of which he hired from alternative high schools or who were people, in his words, who “fell through the cracks.”

He gives all of his employees a 401k match and pays full health and dental benefits. When two of his employees unexpectedly had medical emergencies this year, he covered their treatments and began a meal train at work to bring them food.

“We take care of them through this time because that’s what a company should do,” Clark said. “As an owner and as a person who has responbiltiy for the people that dedicate their time and energies to come to work for you, you should do that for them. They are giving up time from their families, and yes they get paid, but there are plenty of places to go work and the fact that they chose you is something you should honor.

“Most people see it as a burden, not a benefit, I see it as a benefit,” Clark said.

In 2010, Stamp-Connection was named the third best business in the state by Oregon Business magazine for having an atmopshere of "cheerful camaraderie."

A trademark of his business is also Clark's dog, Frankie, who often sits in the window and greets customers. Clark says Frankie has a bigger following than his business, and he's proud to be able to have his dog at work with him every day.

“For me it’s not about the rubber stamp industry,” Clark said. “It’s about a vessel that I could do the stuff that I want and start a company that I want to work for and do it right.”


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