Three years ago, Andrew Rainey sold his first jar of Randy’s Pickles
at the Gordon Square farmer’s market. These days, his products are sold at 300 stores across eight states. In addition to local grocers like Heinen's Fine Foods, Giant Eagle and Miles Market, Randy’s Pickles soon will appear on the shelves of all Northeast Ohio Target stores.
Rainey and his partners recently moved out of the Cleveland Culinary Launch Kitchen
(CCLK) and into their own production facility. The Midtown space moves the company from a cramped 200-square-foot shared kitchen space to a 3,000-square-foot spot with kitchen, storage space and loading dock. The move was an attempt to continue growing the company while also working smarter and cheaper.
“It’s definitely been a learning curve moving from CCLK to our own space,” Rainey says from the comfort of his own office. “But it is so nice to have everything under one roof and especially that loading dock.”
t CCLK, the team had to load in empty jars and load out filled jars by hand one case at a time. A loading dock at the new plant allows them to effortlessly load full pallets of product into the back of a truck. Other automated processes like a mechanical capper and label dispenser have managed to increase efficiency while the company continues to increase production.
“It took four people a full day to apply labels,” says Rainey. “Now, one person can do the same amount in two hours. That allows us to focus on other things, like growing our business.”
Since starting out, Randy’s Pickles more than tripled its output, now cranking out 60 cases a day. Revenue increased from $30,000 the first year to $150,000 the second to $307,000 last year. Rainey says the company, which now employs six full-time and 10 part-time staffers, is on track to hit $850,000 in sales this year.
Despite the geometric growth, little has changed with respect to suppliers, products and processes. Each week, 3,000 pounds of Kirby cucumbers come in the door, are washed, cut into spears and placed into clean glass jars along with herbs and spices. The jars are filled with a vinegar-based brine, sealed and heated just long enough to make them shelf-stable. The pickles will last about two years unopened and a couple months opened and refrigerated.
The spicy Mustache on Fire is still a top seller, but they are joined by Deli Style Dills, Bread and Butter Pickles, Black Pepper Chip Pickles and Grandma Knows Best Peppers, sweet-hot Hungarian peppers inspired by his Hungarian grandmother. Sideburns, the newest variety, are made with cucumbers that are grilled before pickling for a tart and smoky flavor.
Rainey, who just graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, says he continues to acquire new tools, skills and talent, including a new sales director, that will continue to help propel the homegrown pickle business in the right direction. Even so, he says he never plans to stop hitting the smaller flea and farmer’s markets that got him going in the first place.
“The classes gave me time every other week to get away from my business and to focus on my business,” he says. “But those events will always be on our radar because that’s the chance we get to really connect with our customers and get good – and bad – feedback.”