Feeding Detroit's Future
In a city hungry for positive economic news, nine pioneering food entrepreneurs not only supply a much-needed demand, they also serve as catalysts for nourishing and sustaining the communities where they do business
(page 8 of 10)
Joe McClure poses with his pickles
and Bloody Mary mix in McClure’s new production facility in Detroit,
a converted American Axle building.
Name: Joe McClure
Business: Mcclure’s pickles
Feeding Detroit by: Helping revitalize the city’s economy and image
Years before Chrysler began touting its “Imported from Detroit” ad campaign, a small family-owned business was finding luck by including the Detroit stamp on its product.
“Detroit is certainly part of our brand,” says Joe McClure, who founded McClure’s Pickles with his Brooklyn-based brother, Bob. Every McClure’s label bears a generic city skyline and both city names. “When we cooked that up, the idea was [to feature] two fantastic cities that we stand behind, that we both live in, work in, and both love.”
The Southfield natives had been making spicy pickles every summer as part of a longstanding family tradition, passed down from great-grandmother Lala’s recipe. Six years ago, with help from their parents, the brothers turned the family pastime into an official business, selling jars of chili-pepper and garlic-packed pickles at boutique grocers and farmers markets in Brooklyn and Detroit. “People at the time were becoming more conscientious about what they eat,” McClure says. “The farmers markets were getting a real stronghold. It was coincidentally a good time for us to start a pickle company.”
The spicy spears caught on, thanks in part to coverage in national publications such as Bon Appétit and The New York Times, the latter of which called them “pickup-truck, not designer-S.U.V. pickles” that were “extremely good.”
Since then, McClure’s has diversified its product line to include relish, pickle-flavored potato chips, and a popular spicy bloody Mary mix. The hobby turned legitimate business allowed Joe to quit a burgeoning career in academia (he received a Ph.D. in physiology from Wayne State University) to oversee McClure’s Midwest production and distribution. This month, the company plans to complete a move from a 3,000-square-foot production facility in Troy to a 20,000-square-foot space in a former American Axle building in Detroit, expanding its production to meet the demand of the now-international company. The Detroit name now travels along with McClure’s products destined for Ontario and Australia.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here,” McClure says. “We looked at expanding more in Brooklyn, but it’s cost-prohibitive compared to Detroit.”
And there’s a certain sense of community here that you won’t find elsewhere, he says.
“You’ve got so many food entrepreneurs trying to hustle and bustle. People feed off each other. Everybody helps each other here, from branding, to marketing and distribution.”
Beyond the financial good sense of producing in Detroit, McClure understands the symbolic impact his company has with every product sold bearing the city’s name.
“We love to be part of the revitalization of Detroit,” he says. “It’s a great city to be involved in.”
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