The Food Issue 2012
Prince of pickles
With brains, brawn and brine, Tom Perkins has started his own pickling empire
Published: December 5, 2012
With bigger deals in the offing, Perkins is in the initial stages of an expansion plan that involves moving into a 1,500-square-foot space in Hamtramck where he could produce as many as 300 cases a week — that's 3,600 jars of pickles.
"Pickle production doesn't need a lot of space — it takes a couple tables, a couple shelves. It's not a super labor-intensive operation. It does require a really big walk-in refrigerator, though."
Perkins is also happy about relocating to an area rich in pickle heritage. "There's an old abandoned pickle factory down the street from where we're moving. It is so cool that we're moving into a neighborhood that has this history of small food production — especially pickle-making. How many cities are there where there's a history of pickle making because of that Polish heritage?"
Another way Perkins differs from his fellows is with his marketing strategy. He personalizes his pickles with pictures of himself on them. The pickle label, which was designed by Matt Wizinsky of Chicago's Studio Jungle Cat, was even included in a recent book on contemporary graphic design. "I'm pretty proud of that," Perkins says. He also uses the graphic as a banner when he sells at farmers' markets, which people enjoy shooting snapshots of.
"We're definitely trying to take a little more of a fun approach to it," Perkins says. "The lid is unmistakable and I'm definitely part of the branding."
He adds, "You wouldn't realize how many middle aged ladies I've taken pictures with, I've even autographed a few jars. They just say, 'Oh, my gosh! You're the guy on the jar!'"
Perkins even says he's been approached by total strangers, in a good way. "I'm definitely like part of the brand. A couple times now I've had random people come up to me and be like, 'Aren't you the pickle guy?'" he says. "The funniest time was this summer. I was walking down Second Street in Midtown after a long, hot day of pickling. This car pulls over and it's full of some pretty young people who scream, 'Yeah! Perkins Pickles! Yeah! We love your pickles!' After a long day, it was good to hear that and get a laugh out of it."
Michael Jackman is senior editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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