Greeley’s Rice’s Honey invited to be Michelle Obama’s guests at State of the Union address
State of the Union
President Barack Obama delivered his last State of the Union address at 7 pm., Jan. 12. He promised in several news outlets Monday that this one would be different from past addresses, starting with how people can view it. Those trying to watch can stream it online at wh.gov/sotu, they can watch on the White House’s YouTube channel or can view through Amazon Video. Many news networks will cover the event with livestreams and comentary. Clips and quotes will be dropped regularly during the address on the White House’s social media pages including Facebook Twitter, Tumbler, Vine, Instagram and even Snapchat.
She might have missed the beginning of Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey, but 92 years later, she can at least taste the same honey L.R. Rice was carting around.
Five generations and a few revamps later, the family-owned business still is going strong.
“We produce a really great quality product that’s the same as it was many years ago when Jim’s grandfather sold it door-to-door in a wagon,” Ronna Rice said.
In the past few years, they expanded sales of the raw, unfiltered honey into international markets in South Korea, China and Japan.
The expansion of the small business has caught the attention of a few important people. Rice was in Washington, D.C., Jan. 12 to attend the president’s last State of the Union address with First Lady Michelle Obama.
When Rice first heard the White House called, she thought it was a joke.
They’re always joking like that, said Tony Landretti, a close family friend who works with them.
Rice thinks she was asked to attend the address because of the company’s growth into international markets, which was propelled forward by free-trade policies the president talked about in his speech last week.
While the family doesn’t take a political stance on issues like this, they are advocates for small business, Landretti said.
“Our ability to engage in the free-trade market is what we’re supporting. If the U.S. as a country wasn’t supporting our ability to take part in free trade, (expanding) wouldn’t be possible,” Landretti said. “It’s all about supporting small business. To be able to sell that message and say, ‘Hey, it can be done,’ is a cool thing.”
Rice took over as CEO of Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey when her husband, Jim Rice, fell ill a few years ago.
The company began in 1924. Ronna Rice remembers it through many changes and upgrades.
“Goodness, I remember when Jim used to sit at the warehouse and each individual jar was filled by hand from a little spigot,” she said.
Now they have two automated lines that each fill eight bottles at a time.
A few other things have changed. The business, which has been carried on through many male Rices, is now a women-owned company.
Ronna Rice’s daughter, Julie Lordemann, is working closely to help it keep growing, and with many granddaughters, it seemed obvious where the company was heading.
“It just pretty much looked like the future of our company was going to be with the women of our family,” Rice said.
The Rices have four granddaughters and a grandson — ages 6 to 27 — who will be able carry on the family legacy.
The women-owned designation is not to say the men aren’t involved in the company — it’s a family business through and through.
Lordemann has worked with the company for more than 15 years, and her husband, Mike Lordemann, has been there more than 30.
Her brothers started to help when her dad fell ill.
“My sons, Mike and Scott, came on board about three years ago,” Rice said. “Just about everybody is there now. We couldn’t do it with one person gone. Everyone has a special place.”
They have about 20 employees, including the family. Rice said she has to credit the hard workers of Greeley for part of their success.
“They’re the ones that put the honey in the jars, the jars in the boxes and the boxes in the semis,” she said.
Rice was chosen to be part of the Greeley Unexpected campaign in 2014 because of the family’s involvement in the community.
“The idea of the campaign is to tell people Greeley’s story, and they’re part of our story,” said John Pantaleo, who oversees the campaign for the city. “It’s that family’s hard work over five generations that made them what they are today, which is a company exporting all over the world.”
It was exciting to have someone at the address representing Colorado — especially someone from Greeley, he said.
Rice is thankful for Greeley’s support, too.
“Greeley is a town that’s small enough that people know each other and respect each other,” she said.
Rice said when the president honored her, she knew the whole family would be behind her, even though only Lordemann and Landretti were able to make the trip with her.
“My family is so excited they can hardly stand it,” Rice said.
The excitement in D.C. was palpable, too, she said.
“I feel very honored and very humbled and I’m sort of a little bit in shock,” she said.
The successful growth from the door-to-door business still catches her off-guard now and then.
“I sit back once in a while and I just — I’m amazed.” ❖
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