Here Comes Clarence Claus
Jackie and Shaun Rodgers want all children to feel represented, especially during the holidaysBy Scott Gates
Jackie Rodgers had a problem. It was 2015, and she had a new baby boy. Christmas is important to her (she’s the type that starts planning the family Christmas card in October), and she wanted everything to be perfect — right down to the wrapping paper.
“Once I had our son, I knew I wanted wrapping paper that had a brown Santa. But I started looking for it, and I couldn’t find it,” Jackie says. The Raleigh mom reached out to friends in bigger cities who may have been able to track down more varied wrapping paper, but there were no brown Santas to be found. “Once I realized there was a void in the market and no one was making it, I said I would make it myself.”
“She definitely said that,” her husband, Shaun, remembers. “And I definitely dismissed it, and said there’s no way you’re going to create your own wrapping paper.”
Jackie proved him wrong, and now the couple has Greentop Gifts to show for it. Their company makes wrapping paper and apparel featuring the jolly “Clarence Claus,” named for her late father. Family is important to the Rodgers, which also shows through in the company name itself: Jackie’s grandfather ran the Greentop restaurant in Hillsborough in the 1940s and ’50s, remembered as a place of fellowship and happy family gatherings.
Jackie had a very particular image in mind for Clarence Claus, and she interviewed several illustrators before finding a promising one based in Ghana.
“I really liked his style,” she says. “He sent me back his drawing, and I had no edits for the very first version — he brought to life exactly what I had in my head.”
Clarence Claus quickly resonated with families like the Rodgers who felt underrepresented during the Christmas season. The couple started shipping wrapping paper in 2016, spending long hours in their garage fulfilling orders after their son’s bedtime. And word got around. NBC News featured their product, and in 2017, Gayle King, editor-at-large for “O, The Oprah Magazine,” praised the idea in her December column.
“That was a very surreal moment, to actually see it featured by Gayle, and her passion about our product was pretty incredible,” Shaun says. “There are pictures of them wearing Clarence sweatshirts at Oprah’s house in Hawaii.”
This is the third season for the company, now shipping wrapping paper and apparel through a fulfillment company (leaving their garage for the cars). Shaun estimates they have sent out a total 15,000 rolls of wrapping paper — that’s 75,000 square feet of paper, or enough to run the length of about 250 football fields. It’s been shipped to every state in the U.S. but Alaska, and as far as the United Kingdom and Japan.
It’s important for children to see themselves in all things
The Rodgers plan to expand their products to include wrapping paper for other celebrations, including birthdays and graduation. And with a new baby girl at home, their dedication to family and inclusiveness is only stronger.
“It’s important for children to see themselves in all things,” Jackie says. “Representation is important, especially for children. For my children, I want to show them images that look like them through books, toys, movies and other media including wrapping paper. Children should know they can aspire to do and be all things. The images they see should reflect them from a doctor, fire fighter, a character in a children’s book — even Santa.”
Bring Clarence Home
Visit greentopgifts.com to shop an array of gift wraps, accessories and apparel featuring jolly ol’ Clarence Claus.
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