Garrettsville- Dill’s grassy tang perfumes the factory air where Larry and Karl Hermann make pickles five days a week. This is where the brothers still speak the language of kosher, half- sour and sweet horseradish styles. Their lives – and more – have been steeped in vinegar, spices and brine.
“The pickle smell is still in your shoes when you put them on in the morning,” says Karl. It’s been 38 years since the Hermann family, descendants of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, started making dill pickles on Ohio 88 in Garrettsville, a northern Portage County community. Their dad, Don, was in the live chicken business until 1967, when a contagious disease swept in, infected his coops and killed off his broods.
Listening, finally, to encouraging friends and family, Don took his personal recipe for less-sour homemade refrigerator pickles and started selling it to the public. It was a crunchingly good decision.
Today, the Hermann’s have strong sales in Ohio and contiguous states, including high-profile, deli-related restaurants such as Yours Truly, Winking Lizard and Corky & Lenny’s.
They also make custom-label pickles for accounts they aren’t allowed to name but are widely distributed in supermarkets, alongside their own brand.
Six years ago, they extended their reach across the country under an agreement with Nathan’s Famous, a New York hot dog restaurant chain known as a surviving food icon of a Coney Island amusement park.
The hot dog company is on a roll, buying fast-food chains, opening more than 150 of its own restaurants and selling Nathan’s products to more than 2,000 existing restaurants. It is contracting with companies such as Hermann’s to make Nathan’s Famous products – from pickles to hot dogs to mustard to “krinkle-cut” fries.
Consequently, the Hermann’s version of Nathan’s pickles is being sold in more than 6,000 supermarkets in the country.