Jacques Klempf has made a name for himself in the Jacksonville restaurant business. From Bistro Aix to Il Desco, his eateries are destinations where people go to celebrate. This week, Klempf talked to WJCT about selling his family’s other business, the Dixie Egg Co.
Tthe Klempf family has been in the egg business for generations, with Klempf’s grandfather being an egg candler—that’s someone who inspected eggs by holding them up to a candle—who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920’s from Poland. His dad was an egg dealer in Wisconsin and eventually Jacksonville, and Klempf himself starting in the business at his father’s Dixie Egg Co. in Jacksonville in 1978.
Actually, Klempf’s start in the business came a little earlier in life.
“When I was 8 years old, I had a little red wagon, and I distributed eggs in the neighborhood. And I sold the eggs. They were jumbo eggs, and I sold them for 75 cents a dozen, and I bought them for 65 cents a dozen, so I made 10 cents a dozen.”
It turns out Jacques, like his dad, was pretty good in the egg business. When he joined Dixie Egg Co. in 1978, it was doing about $10 milion to $12 million in sales. Last year, sales were over $100 million, with 300 employees in three states, he says.
At age 59, he decided to sell the company to Cal-Maine Foods, a national publically traded company that has the resources to take the business to a higher level.
Cal-Maine has pledged to keep all of Dixie’s employees, which Klempf says was a big factor in his decision to sell.
“I’ve got a lot of employees that have been with me 30 years, 35 years, 20 years, 25 years. You know, they’ve given their life here,” he said. “So it was real important for me that they were able to keep their jobs.”
His oldest daughter, Alexandria, is now president of BAM Investment Group, which includes Forking Amazing Restaurants and commercial properties.
When he talks about how much money he’s spent renovating the downtown building on Bay Street into the Cowford Chophouse, you can almost see him shudder – it’s over $6 million – but you can also sense the pride he feels in helping his hometown.
“Jacksonville is my home. I was born here. I remember a bustling downtown. And now I’m looking forward to this next part of my life, developing this Cowford,” he said. “It’s going to be a really special opportunity, I think, and landmark for Jacksonville.”
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