Joni and Buddy McClain are a great Mississippi success story. When we met recently at their property, the McClain Lodge (located on Clark Creek Road in Brandon), we discussed their various business ventures and how they came to be so successful.
For those who might not know, Buddy owns over 60 Sonic locations throughout Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of Florida. He’s currently looking at adding more locations. In total, he employs over 1,600 people, and his company is one of the top 50 in Mississippi on the Mississippi Business Journal’s list of the top 100 privately owned businesses in Mississippi, with annual sales topping $100 million.
The great thing about the company is how it all started. Buddy began his career with Sonic as a manager trainee, and worked his way up from there. The day came when he decided he wanted to own his own business, but there was just one problem: he lacked the capital to do so. Not one to be discouraged, he presented his case to Troy Smith, CEO of Sonic. He offered to “resurrect” a Sonic location that had previously failed not once, but twice. In short, he reopened that location and made it go. Two years later, he owned 4 locations. Today, he owns over 60, with 23 locations in the Jackson market and more to come in other areas.
“It’s all about hard work,” Buddy said. “I was willing to put in 70 hours a week to make my business go and grow.”
These days, he has other business interests as well, including real estate and the popular Sway’s Bistro on Old Fannin Road in Brandon.
One might think that with all of that success under their belts, Buddy and Joni would have been content to simply enjoy the fruits of their labors. Not so. In 2012, they acquired the former Luckett Lodge in Brandon and changed the name to McClain Lodge.
In part, this became Joni’s venture, “with lots of moral support from Buddy,” said Joni.
“We have a board meeting every morning at breakfast,” she said.
Since acquiring the property, they’ve invested over $1 million in new lodging facilities, and they have a banquet hall, a chapel for weddings and other events, and other facilities, surrounded by over 800 acres of beautiful rural beauty. In fact, they also have a collection of exotic animals including antelope on the property.
For Joni, the secret to success is not only hard work, but also to deliver the best possible service. Joni often takes calls herself and loves to deal with customers. She particularly loves weddings and corporate events. Before she met and married Buddy in 2007, she had her own successful event company, and was named one of Mississipi’s 50 Leading Businesswomen by the Mississippi Business Journal.
The McClains love Mississippi, and although their business extends to several states, their hearts are firmly planted in the Magnolia State.
“In many ways, Mississippi is the most positive of our states to do business in,” Buddy said, pointing to a pro-business climate and “lots of great people.” Asked what his main concerns as the owner of a large enterprise, Buddy said that in his view, “Jackson needs to be fixed. It’s truly important to our state.” He’d also like to see some reduction in the growth of federal business regulation. “These kinds of rules and regs have definitely resulted in reducing our profit margins,” he said.
Whatever the future holds, Buddy and Joni do not seem in the least inclined to slow down and take life easy. They have plans to open a “general store” at the corner of Holly Bush and Clark Creek, and they are currently selling brown eggs from almost 200 hens on their property.
One thing is clear: Buddy and Joni McClain are a great family team, and they love what they do. They represent not only a great Mississippi success story, but a great American success story, as well.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.