Shamus Jones, the Brooklyn-born kid who loves music and skateboarding, has lived by one motto his 30 years on earth: Doing it yourself is always better.
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“I was raised in a working-class family with a blue-collar work ethic, so I think that was instilled in me throughout my life,” he said.
And it was that mentality that prepared the former chef when he started his own business in July 2009.
Brooklyn Brine, a pickle company he’s built in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, was inspired by all the seasonal produce Jones was used to cooking with.
“I haven’t eaten meat for half of my life, so all the restaurants I’ve worked in were vegetarian,” he said. “I noticed that in every restaurant I was working at, every menu, every dish, we had a preserved component because certain items are only available for three weeks out of the year."
And from his experience, he has created quite an eclectic array of pickled products. The company sells everything from lavender asparagus to Moroccan green beans to the more traditional deli pickles.
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And it’s that distinctiveness that brought William Sonoma a knocking. Just last month, the big-time retailer started distributing the brand at all nationwide stores.
“We want to continue to be leaders so we need to help differentiate ourselves,” said Carmine Fiore, a buyer for Williams Sonoma. “And right now it’s all about sustainability, eating local and supporting smaller entrepreneurs.”
And Jones sees this trend toward smaller, more artisanal vendors helping his distribution with both large and small stores.
“There is a movement now of bringing things back to the smaller scale, like being able to walk down the street and say, ‘That’s my pickle maker, that’s my butcher, that’s my milk man.’”
The company, that Jones said was started on rice and beans, is growing rapidly and demand has been hard to keep up with for him and his five full-time employees.
“We work seven days a week and produce around 1,200 jars a day,” he said.
Yet, despite the quick expansion, Jones said his dreams are not to rule the pickle world.
“I don’t have the intention of having dollars over sense,” he said. “We’re going to keep digging our heals into NYC as the hometown pickle makers and expanding business nationwide.”
SIX SHOOTER WITH SHAMUS JONES OF BROOKLYN BRINE:
1. What has been the biggest change since becoming successful?
The biggest change for us has been the volume of production. The biggest surprise has been the scalability of what we do and how the product quality has only improved. Having a preserve business allows for me to purchase produce when it's in season and local, creating stock for us to sell throughout the year.
2. When times get tough, what inspires you?
I would say words of encouragement from my mother and father, friends and other business owners. The freedom of working for myself has been a inspiration. Lastly, the fact we are still in business and growing every day after a year and a half.
3. What is your favorite quote?
"I was raised to question authority" Ian MacKaye (singer)
4. What do you wish you had more of: time or money?
Time for sure. I have had some great moments to reflect on my dream becoming a reality while working back-to-back 16-hour days, but I would like to see my girlfriend and cat more.
5. From being a chef to building this company - where did you get your work ethic?
My work ethic comes from a working class background, my mother worked three jobs and put herself through college while raising an only child.
6. As a Brooklyn-born guy, what do you think of its growing popularity?
I think it's great! If my company can prevent at least on hideous condo from being built by manufacturing here then my job has been done.
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