Roger Yost


Roger Yost takes life where it leads him.

Although Roger Yost achieved a childhood ambition early in life – he became a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times at 19–his long career path knew no boundaries.

Using his creative skills, he would at various stages of life become an editor, adman, marketer, educator, environmentalist, film producer, lyricist, master gardener, nurseryman, restaurateur, gallery owner, investor and, as many of his associates and employees would attest: Coach and Mentor.

Yost would spend five years at the Sun-Times, mostly covering high school and college sports and thoroughbred racing, before leaving for the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT), then the world’s largest advertising agency.

His innovative promotions for JWT client Johnson Motors prompted Jantzen Inc. to persuade Yost to go West in 1965 and take over the advertising and marketing of its Men’s Division, which was using athletes to promote swimwear, sportswear and sweaters. A natural fit for a former sportswriter.

By this time Yost had married his high school sweetheart (Barbara Brown), fathered two children (Kathryn and Douglas), and thought Portland, Oregon, offered an ideal environment for a young family. Yost would spend 33 years with Jantzen, eventually becoming Vice President-Advertising & Event Marketing, before "retiring" in 1998 to develop and manage a garden center he created on 42 acres in Newberg, OR.

At Jantzen he would broaden the company's early involvement in sports marketing, pioneer multimedia in fashion shows, in-store shop concepts, and co-branding with retailers. He also revived Jantzen's 1920s environmental campaign called "Clean Water" that would change the culture of the company and make Jantzen an industry leader in cause-related marketing.

Jantzen's roster of sports celebrities included Frank Gifford, Bob Cousy, Bobby Hull, Jerry West, Paul Hornung, Dave Marr and Oregonian Terry Baker. Yost would quickly add Tim Brown (Eagles) as the company's first African American spokesman, and Don Meredith, Calvin Hill, and Lance Alworth after signing to become the National Football League’s first apparel licensee.

Yost's recruits would eventually expand Jantzen's involvement in sports to champions of Golf (Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, and Curtis Strange), Surfing (Corky Carroll), Tennis (Roscoe Tanner, Cliff Drysdale, Cliff Richey and Paul Annacone), Bowling (Dick Weber), Rodeo (Larry Mahan), Windsurfing (Ken Winner) and Beach Volleyball (Karolyn Kirby, Nancy Reno, Angela Rock, Barbra Fontana and Elaine Youngs). And one summer during a baseball strike, an amazing young pitcher named Vida Blue. The athletes would grace Jantzen's highly rated ads in Life, Sports Illustrated, Time, Playboy, Newsweek, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Golf Digest, Surfer and Tennis magazines, and commercials on various TV networks.

He Brings Sweat Equity to Women's Wear

When Yost was elevated to corporate vice president in charge of branding in the late 1980s, he would soon reshape the women's division image and drive the brand "younger."

He did so by introducing a communications strategy that would emphasize cause-related marketing and event sponsorships, while balancing beauty and fitness in print, broadcast, direct mail, outdoor, transit and point-of-sale advertising.

When Yost hired beach volleyball stars Kirby and Reno, the athletes not only added an authentic "sweat equity" to the venerable company, but instantly made Jantzen the dominant apparel brand in the sport.

NBC televised women's beach volleyball almost every summer weekend, and one or more of Jantzen's volleyball stars dominated the tour finals.

About the same time Jantzen was dominating beach volleyball, Jantzen became the national sponsor of the U.S. Synchronized swimming as a prelude to re-entry into the competition swimsuit market. A 5-year agreement included renaming the sport's annual championship - the Jantzen National. Yost would later be honored with the first Syncro USA award in 1998.

The Jantzen logo not only became ubiquitous at televised beach volleyball events, but would find its way onto a major Times Square billboard; an Indy car driven by ground-breaking driver Lynn St. James; on Baywatch actors and real lifeguards (Jantzen became the sponsor of Los Angeles County lifeguards and the annual National Lifeguard Championships), and on contestants in the most watched beauty pageants in the world - Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and the Miss Universe Pageants.

"I was told the Times Square billboard generated more than 1 billion impressions a year - and that the televised Miss Universe pageant would attract an audience that size in a single night," Yost said.

Clean Water Campaign is Revived

Although adding a "sweat equity" dimension to women's wear, the sponsorship of lifeguards, pageants and the Times Square billboards added significantly to Jantzen's visibility, the centerpiece of Yost's marketing campaigns involved the revival of Jantzen's 1926 Clean Water initiative.

In the Roaring '20s, Jantzen's founders teamed up with swimming pool makers to provide reassurance that public pools were safe and not breeding grounds for polio. The Clean Water campaign launched in the '90s targeted pollution, beach cleanups and partnerships with environmental groups dedicated to a common cause.

Department stores in almost every major U.S. city would eventually establish Jantzen Clean Water shops and donate $2 for every Jantzen suit sold to local environmental groups.

Ads in USA Today proclaimed that Jantzen was not out to save the world - just three-quarters of it. The company soon sponsored beach cleanups on all three North American coastlines, trumpeted environmental messages at beach volleyball venues, in Miss USA and Miss Universe television spots, and through its lifeguard sponsorships.

The Early Real Estate Investments

While helping build Jantzen into one of America's pre-eminent apparel brands, Yost and his wife, Barbara, began investing in Oregon real estate.They refinanced their Portland Heights home in 1977 to purchase a 1905 16-unit apartment building ("The Queen Anne") in Northwest Portland and an oceanfront home in Arch Cape, Oregon.

In September 1984, the Yosts would purchase a small strip mall in Downtown Lake Oswego to house a displaced pet store ("Tropical Fantasy") the family had purchased a few months earlier for their son, Douglas, to manage.

Barbara Yost, diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 1969, would oversee the family real estate investments until her death in 1989 at age 53.

The Birth of Wine Country Nursery

Yost would later sell both the Queen Anne and the Lake Oswego property and purchase a 42 acre parcel in Newberg, he first considered developing a vineyard, but he knew that would require time and an expertise Yost lacked. Retail geography made the difference: Newberg residents had to drive 10 miles to access the nearest full service garden center.

Yost would study successful garden center operations in Oregon, California, Texas, Massachusetts, and Canada while boning up on botany and becoming a Master Gardener. Within a year he would open the Wine Country Nursery & Aquarium, specializing in exotic plants, Japanese maples, magnolias, conifers, and water gardening.

Business grew rapidly, and by 1998 Yost had erected eight green houses to supply his garden center and was a fixture on radio and television shows dedicated to gardening aficionados. Demands were such that Yost decided it was time to leave Jantzen after nearly 33 years.

The rapid growth of Wine Country was chronicled by garden center media, and Yost was invited to share his branding secrets with other nurserymen at regional and national trade shows. By 2001, Yost would become president of the Northwest Nursery Buyers Association (NNBA), an organization of 125 leading garden centers based in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Northern California.

He would play a pivotal role in developing private label products that the NNBA would brand for exclusive distribution by its members.

In 2002 Yost was approached by a company representing the Sisters of Providence. They wanted to erect a regional hospital in the Newberg area, and Yost's acreage was strategically located. Within a year a deal was consummated, and for the first time in over 50 years, Yost found himself unemployed.

The Move to Downtown Salem

At a time when most men of his age would be retiring to a life of leisure, Roger Yost quietly arrived in Downtown Salem in 2003 and became one of its largest investors and an agent of change.

He bought fourlandmark buildings, became active in economic improvement efforts, served onmany boards and committees, and began contributing to the quality of Salem's life in many, many ways.

Yost's first love became the Reed Opera House. In the course of the next 15 years Yost and his staff would touch every one of the building's 66,000 square feet.

Yost restored the building's exterior architectural features that went missing in 1900. He and colleague Rebecca Maitland would bring in live theater, new restaurants, bakeries, beauty shops, photography studios, architects, marketers, and therapists into old spaces that nourished the vision that Cyrus Reed may have had in 1869. Indeed, the Reed became what Roger Yost envisioned in 2003: The center of Salem's social and cultural life.

Yost would serve as president of the Go Downtown business organization from 2008-10 and the Historic Elsinore Theatre board of directors. And while serving on the board of the Salem Convention and Visitors Association, engineered a change of its name to "Travel Salem."

Salem mayors would call upon Roger Yost to testify for needed improvements. Mayor Janet Taylor may best remember his plea: "Let's put some lipstick on our Cinderella City."

His desire to enhance the dining experience at the Alessandro's Ristorante he purchased in 2006 resulted in opening the Roger Yost Fine Art Gallery within its walls. The gallery later earned a building of its own in 2013, a second location on the Oregon Coast in 2015, and in 2017 was voted one of America's Top 25 Galleries.


And just as quietly as he arrived 15 years earlier, Roger Yost downsized his considerable Salem holdings in 2018 to devote more time to the arts.

The lure of the ocean that prompted Yost to make one of his first investments in Arch Cape 41 years earlier, was no less compelling in 2018. He purchased the iconic art-oriented Sandpiper Square in Cannon Beach, OR, and the Bridgeview Professional Center a few blocks from his Bay Street Gallery in Newport.

Yost's rationale: "I simply can't separate art and architecture. They are my only addictions."

© Roger Yost - All Rights Reserved, 2009