Food, News

Meet the pickle king of Detroit: McClure’s Pickles

Working the pickle line at Detroit McClure's Pickle Factory

Whether you eat them, delight in them, beg for them, plop them in your Bloody Mary, or simply accept their spot on lunch plates across the country, the pickle plays an essential role in our gastronomic culture.

Since 2006, McClure’s pickles has been serving up some of the crunchiest, tastiest and most unique pickles in the land.

Bob and Joe McClure of McClures PicklesThe McClures, brothers Bob and Joe, and their parents, Mike and Jennifer, have been using an age-old recipe from Jennifer’s grandmother and with boundless enthusiasm have been pleasing our palates for the last seven years. McClure’s offers not only pickles, but relish, potato chips, Bloody Mary mix and brine … and you can even get the shirt.

Last October, the McClures moved their operation from Troy, a suburb just north of Detroit, to the formerly closed American Axle plant just across from the Russell Industrial Center, straddling the border between Detroit and Hamtramck.

Why make a move and breathe life into a building that had been left vacant?

“The supply chain in the state of Michigan is great and the logistics coordination in Southeast Michigan is top shelf,”  Bob McClure said while we were touring their new plant. “The real estate in Michigan is very well-priced compared to many other locations … especially New York. The bulk of our team members and our family were all there so looking at New York vs. Michigan became a no brainer after doing a cost analysis and looking at the long-term picture of where we wanted to grow the company.”

Working the pickle line at Detroit McClure's Pickle FactoryThe plant is well put together and an exceptionally clean facility. Production plants, as I’ve learned here in the Motor City, tend to have a “hum” of activity. Instead of auto parts this one hums with the processing of pickles, relish, Bloody Mary mix and the other products the boys are cooking up.

Their grandmother Lala’s recipe has created enough buzz for the McClures to have upwards of 30 employees, including Bob’s wife, Natalie.

Their various products can be found in 35 of the 50 states and if you are vacationing in Australia, Canada or South Korea you may be able to find their Spicy Bloody Mary Mix as well.

After a tour of McClure’s Pickles and a long conversation with Bob there is no doubt that they have vast plans and love what they are doing.

But why Michigan, specifically, Detroit? They looked into making Brooklyn their headquarters but over the past few years Brooklyn has exploded in growth and more importantly exploded in price. The McClures found that running a successful operation out of Brooklyn would simply be too expensive, and they wanted to be close to family and friends.

American Axle Plant has become Pickle Paradise

The pickle plant is the former American Axle facility.

Bob continued, “What I love about Detroit is the potential for change.  When I was living in Brooklyn, there was a part of the waterfront nearby that was all manufacturing. It was a graffiti zone, broken lights, hipsters and drug dealers and then the zoning changed and what I liked about it is that it provided the groundwork for development and some great things. I think Detroit has that as well: Midtown, Corktown, Eastern Market are all on the rise.”

Now they find themselves at the forefront of Detroit’s entrepreneurial revival, based on actual sales and producing a product people love across the country. Looking towards a bright future, a future filled with spicy pickles, Bloody Mary mix and many other concoctions that have yet to hit the shelves.

“I’d hope for McClure’s to continue growing with our own brands and become a formidable component of the natural food space … (we’re) highlighting that we are a Michigan-based company and eventually (hope to) help make Michigan one of the country’s food production hubs. I think we can do that.” McClure added.

This is exactly the kind of positive Detroit story you don’t always hear from outside sources. It’s too easy to fixate on the crime, the emergency financial manager, the corruption and so difficult to remember that each and every day in Detroit a great number of people are working from sunup until sundown to try and make this a better, tastier place.

Now where’s that Bloody Mary?

Bob and Joe McClure of McClures Pickles

The McClure brothers together at their Detroit facility


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