It all started in a backyard in 1973. The McLemore’s family business became Masterbuilt Manufacturing, Inc. Here’s our story, told by three generations…
John McLemore, President/CEO of Masterbuilt
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved to cook. I suppose you could say this was an inherited trait. When you father invented and manufactured cooking products, with his little ones right by his side, it’s hard not to fall in love with the idea of cooking for large crowds. Being a cooking products manufacturer wasn’t always in the cards for my family. It all started with my dad – Dawson. He was a master “tinkerer” who honed his skills in the backyard with a welder, determination and lots (and I do mean LOTS) of steel.
We moved to Columbus, Georgia, in 1971, and Dad began focusing more on that tinkering in the backyard and taught us how to weld. In fact, the running joke was that I had a diaper in one hand and a welder in the other! Wherever my dad was, I wanted to be. Whatever my dad did, I wanted to do. He was and still is my absolute hero. His tinkering started to take on a life much bigger than the backyard could handle and, well, the rest is history. History that led to the birth of Masterbuilt. The best person to tell our story is the man responsible for me and Masterbuilt – Dawson McLemore. If you ever meet us, you’ll hear me call him Ole’ Man. Read on to see what the Ole’ Man remembers….
Dawson McLemore – “The Ole’ Man”
In 1972, I was a salesman for Goodyear Tire. As a hobby, I loved spending time in our backyard with my sons, welding and making something useful from metal. One of the first things we made were brackets for hanging plant baskets. My wife needed something to hold her plants, so I made her some brackets. With a family of seven, I was always open to any opportunity to add to our income, so I took some of these brackets to the nursery to sell. I also noticed some fern stands at the nursery and making one for my wife turned into selling more than you could shake a stick at. John was about 8 years old and would load those fern stands up in his little red wagon and take them door-to- door. He was my first traveling salesman! Eventually, we started making baker’s racks and officially started our company — M&M Welding. While I was driving to Alabama one day, I was having a conversation with the good Lord about our business. You see, I had quit my job at Goodyear and lost all of my benefits. I had a wife and five children to support at home and felt like I needed help running the business. I said in that prayer, “Lord, if you’ll help me, I’ll make you a business partner and rename this business after you.” The name Masterbuilt came to me right then. Ever since that day, the “Master” has been leading Masterbuilt.
Most of you probably know Masterbuilt for cooking products, not baker’s racks and fern stands. How that came about all started with a Snapper lawnmower. I made a fish cooker and bartered it for the lawnmower. I thought, if it was good enough to barter, it was good enough to sell. And that’s how we got into the fish cooker business.
When John and the rest of my boys were little, they could have spent more time playing sports or focusing on schoolwork, but they seemed to always love helping me with Masterbuilt. John stayed in high school and got his diploma, but he’ll be quick to tell you that was for his Momma. When the rest of his friends were hanging out in Panama City Beach, Florida, after graduation, John showed up for work on Monday. He opted for the University of Masterbuilt instead of college. He didn’t even let a serious accident with a grinder back when he was 13 years old discourage him.
And let me tell you, that was a scary day. I remember throwing him in the back of my truck and letting my 15-year-old son Don drive us to the hospital. Don didn’t even have a license! The surgeon put John’s arm back together and he went back to work. Years later, when we had a serious fire at Masterbuilt and most of our equipment was burned up, I had a decision to make. We would either shut down or bring it back. I knew that Masterbuilt had a lot of life left in it for my family, so we started building cookers with the equipment we had left. I still remember John bringing me the first fish cooker they made after the fire and placing it on my desk. John said, “Ole’ Man, here’s cooker number one and we’re back in business.”
There’s a certain time in a man’s life when he knows he needs to move on. That time for me was age 47, when I retired from Masterbuilt and left it in my boys’ hands. John had a vision to take the company to the next level and he’s never stopped. I’m tickled to see how far Masterbuilt has come. It isn’t just a company; it’s a part of our family. I wouldn’t have handed over the reigns to anyone else and I have to tell you, John sure has made this Ole’ Man proud.
John McLemore, II – “J-Mac”
It’s an exciting time to be at Masterbuilt! We have such a rich history and as a 3rd generation McLemore in our company, I look forward to continuing our traditions of bringing family and friends together by creating innovative and easy-to-use cooking and automotive products. Like my dad (John), I feel like I grew up at Masterbuilt. I remember playing in the shop while they built products and sitting at my dad’s big desk. The Masterbuilt story isn’t just about the McLemores, it’s about our “family” of co-workers and you – the people who buy our products and share them with your families. It’s true that every product developed at Masterbuilt is something we ourselves love to use. From plant stands in the backyard to propane fish fryers to the Butterball Indoor Electric Turkey Fryers and our Masterbuilt Electric Smokehouses – there’s no telling what’s next. You can be sure we will continue to build products that spread the message my dad tells us at home – a meal that isn’t shared with family and friends is just plain ol’ food!