CLEVELAND — There are a few things you should know about Clark Pope.
“The one thing I’ve definitely learned above all else: Nothing happens in a vacuum," he said.
He is passionate about food, learning and history.
“My wife is a scientist at the Cleveland Clinic, and we actually make our own cheeses. We make our own wines. We make our own sausages," said Pope.
Much of his life has been a journey of searching for a way to incorporate all of his interests into a career.
“I consider myself very fortunate that I was able to make what is my passion also my paycheck," said Pope.
Cocktails are Pope’s latest adventure.
As Clark Pope of @popeskitchen would say - these hairnets are bringing sexy back. I’ll share his journey from corporate food, to teaching high school students, to now running his own all-natural sauce and cocktail business on @SpectrumNews1OH. pic.twitter.com/SWSFKFLw3R— Micaela Marshall (@MMarshallTV) June 3, 2021
“I also find it very refreshing," he said while taking a sip of one of his creations.
Pope’s Kitchen began small as a catering business in 2000, which eventually turned into him creating specialty homemade barbecue and hot sauces.
“So, I added bourbon to 'Burning River' and in a fit of creativity I called it 'Whiskey River,'” said Pope.
His line later included cocktail syrups and bloody mary mix. This year, Pope’s Kitchen expanded into Pope’s Cocktails with ready-to-drink alcoholic pouches.
“I’m very excited that I’m the first resealable pouch with a spirit in the United States,” said Pope.
Pope said his story is as much about him, as it is about the people who helped him get here.
“Have I mentioned how wonderful and patient my wife is?" he said.
For years he worked in the corporate food world. He later became a high school teacher, and Pope went all-in with Pope’s Kitchen about seven years ago.
“This has been more of a hunt, and I do feel very fulfilled. I love what I do," said Pope.
He prides himself in keeping it simple, by using local all-natural ingredients.
“It’s as clean as the day is long," he said. “There’s no food coloring. There’s no additives. There’s no preservatives. There’s no flavoring agents at all. This is the color of freshly crushed blueberries," he said while pointing at his new blueberry lemonade cocktail.
Pope loves being part of the Central Kitchen Food Hub in Cleveland. The workers and equipment are shared with other small businesses.
His products are sold online, at events and can be found in grocery stores and restaurants.
“It’s how you’d make it if you had time," is his slogan.
Everything is made, bottled and labeled at the Food Hub and it’s a true team effort.
“Children have stories of dad taking them for ice cream. My daughter has stories of dad having her work in the warehouse," Pope said while laughing.
Running a small business can be challenging, but for Pope, the work is well worth it.
“It’s a privilege to have a business," said Pope. "It’s a privilege to be able to chase my dream.”