Renee Clay-Circle

By Jeanni Brosius Published January 1, 2012 at 3:22 a.m.
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— Where does one begin when trying to describe a woman as dynamic as Renee Clay-Circle? For starters, she has worked in her family’s business since she was a teenager.

She was born to older parents who were already in the grocery business. She had two brothers with muscular dystrophy who died when they were young. That left only Clay-Circle to one day take over the family business started by her father, Robert Clay, who died in 2008.

She began working at the register and in the produce section in her father’s grocery store while she was in high school.

“The only thing I can’t do is cut meat,” Clay-Circle said with a chuckle.

Then after she graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro with her business degree, Clay-Circle eventually became the CEO of her family’s chain of 22 Town and Country and Price Chopper stores, overseeing 1,260 employees.

In 1990, Clay-Circle purchased half of the grocery store chain from her father, and 10 years later, the Clay family sold all of the grocery stores in the chain except for the Hardy location.

But there’s much more to the Clay-Circle empire. There’s the 7,000-acre cattle ranch in Saddle, a movie theater, a newspaper, a sporting goods store, a hotel, a shopping center and three funeral homes. In addition to all that, she is the mother of four.

After her business partner in the funeral home business and Sharp County coroner, Randy McComas, committed suicide in 2009, Clay-Circle finished the remainder of his term as county coroner.

Since 2007, Clay-Circle has served on the Highland School Board. This school year, she is a voting delegate for the State School Board Convention that met in Little Rock recently.

She has also been certified to become a reserve police officer.

“I’ve wanted to be one for a long time,” Clay-Circle said about becoming a reserve officer. “I’ve been a Glock law-enforcement dealer for eight or nine years.”She and Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts pulled together with a group of businesses, organizations and private citizens to provide 13 bulletproof vests for Sharp County deputies.

When Clay-Circle isn’t working with her businesses or working in her community, she said her passion is hunting.

“Where we live is a great place to hunt and fish,” Clay-Circle said. “Hunting is a passion of mine.” In fact, that’s just how she met her current husband, Nathan Circle.

Her first husband had been killed in a plane crash. One of Clay-Circle’s hunting buddies was the husband of her daughter’s fourth-grade teacher.

“On one hunting trip, his brother was there and went hunting with us,” she said.

Although, she said she and Nathan had known of each other, they had never formally met until that hunting trip.

The Circles are very generous with Sharp County communities. The family donated $7,500 to Hardy United Methodist Church, where they attend. The money will be used to build the Clay Playground for Children in honor of Clay-Circle’s parents, the late Robert and Kathleen Clay.

Clay-Circle’s parents both served in the military. Robert was a Navy Seabee during World War II, and Kathleen was a recruiter in several states. So Clay-Circle saw it fitting to be on the Veteran’s Memorial board of directors. In 2005, she participated in the construction of a memorial for Ash Flat veterans.

Admitting that she didn’t get where she is all by herself, Clay-Circle credits several people for helping her achieve such success - her accountants Jim and Marlene Sawyer; Jody Shackleford, who runs the newspaper; and Kenneth and Charlotte Moore, who manage the movie theater and shopping center.

Her husband also runs the sporting goods store, which is a store-within-a-store concept. It is located inside the Hardy Price Chopper.

“It’s been rewarding to give a lot of people jobs and providing a service to the people,” Clay-Circle said.

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

up close

getting to know Renee Clay-Circle

Birth date: Dec. 28, 1964

Occupation: Business owner

Hometown: Hardy

Something on my bucket list: To kill a grizzly bear

Biggest influence: My parents

Comfort food: Popcorn

Hobbies: Traveling and hunting

Something you would like people to know

about you: I didn’t get here by myself

Three Rivers Edition Writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at 501-244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

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