Meet Michigan Winner McClure’s Pickles
Posted on Thursday, September 15th, 2011 in Pickles by Jen Flaxman
Joe and Bob McClure founded McClure’s Pickles in 2006 using their great-grandmother Lala’s recipe for spicy pickles when both were in need of a job with stability and freedom. Bob can be found in Brooklyn, New York doing small batch research and development, while Joe (with parents, Mike and Jennifer) works from Detroit, Michigan, handling the manufacturing and producing of pickles.
Growing up in the Detroit area of Michigan, Joe and Bob McClure spent much of their childhood making spicy pickles with their family recipe, passed on for generations. Bob recalls that every year they would go to the Detroit Eastern Market and buy enough cucumbers to make around 150 jars of pickles on a summer day, though at the time it felt more like a chore than an important tradition. Pickling remained a part of their family lives, but as they grew up, Joe and Bob put pickling on the back burner while they pursued their own dreams.
I caught up with Bob McClure from his home base in Brooklyn, New York. He moved there from Detroit, Michigan a while back to pursue a career in acting. Though he landed work in TV and film, and as a freelance art assistant, he yearned for a job with stability. So one day, after bringing some homemade pickles to a cast party, everyone told him he should start his own business and sell them. “Well,” Bob thought, “maybe I should.” He called up his brother, Joe to see what he thought. Joe was in.
“The beginning wasn’t easy,” recalled Bob, who went door-to-door asking markets if they would carry his brand. But he was handed some luck when he met the owners of a new market, Brooklyn Kitchen, just before they opened. They hit it off and agreed to carry some of his products. Soon after, Bob and Joe were featured in a New York Times article highlighting Brooklyn’s new food movement and things took off from there.
Bob appreciates his customers more than anything. “A lot of people are caring about food products and willing to take a leap to opening up their wallets to what would generally be considered higher priced merchandise that have typically been pretty cheap,” he told me. “There is a willingness in the consumer to connect with an honest, genuine and authentic product, that is not trying to hide anything in its ingredients or purpose.”
He understands that it takes a certain kind of person to pay $9.99 for a jar of pickles, but emphasizes that a higher price point is one of the challenges of a small company. “Where big producers can get savings on raw material, we can’t. We just don’t have the space to make that much,” Bob explains. “So no matter what we do the price of our pickles will be higher, because they cost more to make.” Though when cucumbers are in season McClure’s buys from local Michigan Farms (the largest producers of pickling cucumbers in the US) it costs even more in the off-season when the cucumbers come from Florida or the Yucatan. The McClure’s try to remedy this problem by selling mostly in small specialty stores where they know consumers are willing to pay more for a craft product.
What’s on the horizon for McClure’s pickles? For one they’ve partnered with Detroit’s Better Made Potato Chips to come up with a pickle-flavored potato chip that’s already selling like crazy. Plus, winning a Good Food Award has helped McClure’s pickles earn some reputation on the west coast. He understands that people are conscious of eating locally, but know people like trying new things from all over the place. “I didn’t get into this business to join a food movement, just to have a job and carry on a family tradition, so that’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”