He let you guys use his kitchen for free? "Yeah, he just let us use his space," says Egnew. "It was really the most tremendous thing that could have happened," says Jones. All they needed now were vegetables. "Shamus already had connections to distributors and farmers from his restaurant experience," says Egnew. "Within days," says Jones, "we had farmers coming here with produce."
Marlow and Daughters, a butcher shop in Brooklyn, was another early client. Though Jones has been vegetarian for almost 19 years, he knew he wanted to talk to someone there. He made a cold call and ran a tasting with five blood-stained butchers. They placed an order and Egnew and Jones started working overnight, going from their day jobs straight to the Brooklyn Label kitchen to get started on production.
Jones was cooking vegan food at Jivamukti Yoga near Union Square, spending his lunch breaks talking to purveyors at the Greenmarket and Egnew, who designed the company's gorgeous barrel logo, was tattooing at Three Kings (where he still works).
The pickling nights turned out to be labor-intensive so the two put an ad out in Craigslist to get some help. Must like metal and beer, it specified. Carlton, also out of a job, was spending her free time pickling summer vegetables and writing a food blog documenting her adventures in vegan cooking and eating. She answered the ad.
I ask if they really listen to metal when they're working nights together. "We actually listen to a lot of hip hop. Commercial stuff like Jay-Z," says Jones. On a busy night, BB produces 20 cases that get distributed to about 16 local shops and they're working on a contract with Angello's Organic Distributing which would mean 70-odd new locations for the little pickle company throughout the Northeast. That's big news for a new start-up.
But their most exciting project might be their idea to use local whiskey barrels for the actual pickling process, not just for show. They've been successful with a few batches of lacto-fermented cucumbers in Tuthilltown distillery barrels--because the aged charred oak's tannins react, they add grape leaves to the barrels to keep the cucumbers crisp, rather than the firming agents used by industrial pickle-makers.
There's a waiting list for the whiskey sours (Spuyten Duyvil has a case!) but the trio is still working out the logistics--lacto-fermented products aren't shelf stabilized, which means they company would have to commit to a refrigerated storage space and refrigerated transport to do it in bulk.
"It's a slow process," says Jones, "but we're figuring it out. We want to play around with local wine barrels next." Other plans include getting their own production space in the next year with a retail space and barrels up front where customers can buy a single pickle. "With Gus's on Orchard going under, there aren't a lot of places where you can get pickles from the actual producers," says Egnew.