Patricia Wallwork was an attorney for a national law firm in Birmingham, Alabama, before diving headfirst into her parents’ beverage company, Milo’s Tea Co.
For eight years, she went on sales calls, rode route trucks and familiarized herself with corporate and plant operations.
“In 2012, I went to my family and said I want the shot to run this,” Wallwork said.
Dad and Mom agreed.
Now the CEO is bringing that expertise and her company to Tulsa, which is the beneficiary of Milo’s first major expansion, a $60 million investment. Officials are expected to break ground Wednesday on its new production facility in Cherokee Extension Industrial Park in Tulsa County, just east of the Macy’s Fulfillment Center.
“When we came to Tulsa, it was very evident through working with the (Tulsa Regional) Chamber, working with the mayor and his office that this could be our second home,” Wallwork said during an interview Tuesday at the Tulsa World. “From the philanthropic community to, from really feeling welcome, they wanted to work with us to help us figure this out.
“We really felt like we could come here and be part of the community.”
Working with a site selection team, Bessemer, Alabama-based Milo’s spent about three years looking for a place to expand, Wallwork said. Records indicate plans for a 102,435-square-foot facility, which Wallwork said by September 2020 will create 110 jobs in areas such as brewing, bottling, shipping, logistics, maintenance and leadership. The base wage will be $15.50 per hour.
“Having the opportunity with a clean sheet of paper here in Tulsa to really say let’s use world-class manufacturing to build our next site is special,” Wallwork said. “That opportunity has all of our team pretty excited. ...
“This is a huge thing for our company.”
After Wallwork’s grandfather, Milo Carlton, returned from World War II, he and his wife, Beatrice, opened a restaurant on the north side of Birmingham in 1946, selling hamburgers, fries, pies and tea.
“There was nowhere to sit but people would call in and order hamburgers,” Wallwork said. “If you lived in Birmingham, you knew Milo’s.”
The family began franchising the restaurants in the early 1980s.
“They noticed that people would just drive through to get the tea,” Wallwork said. “Back then, there was really no natural alternative available in the grocery store. Every tea product that was sold was really a chemistry experiment in a can. I like to say we were natural before it was cool.”
Milo’s began marketing its refrigerated, no preservatives product in grocery stores in 1989, ultimately selling the family’s restaurants in 2002. Funds from that sale underwrote the company’s first plant in Bessemer that same year.
Milo’s, which also produces lemonade, is available in 45 states.
“Our slogan is ‘taste the difference’ because our products do taste different than other tea beverages out there because they are fresh brewed,” Wallwork said.
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