In a Pickle

Basement business builds into a national brand

By Terry Troy

When Don Hermann decided to experiment with making his own pickles in a Garretsville farmhouse back in 1967, it was born of tragedy.

Pat Viancourt

“Don Hermann had been raising chickens, but a disease wiped out his entire flock, as well as a turkey farm just up the road,” says Pat Viancourt, president and CEO of the Hermann Pickle Company, who owns the company today along with his brother, Tim. “So, Don and his wife started making pickles in the basement of the family farmhouse.”

On Saturdays, the couple would drive their sons to Hebrew school in Cleveland Heights, load up the family station wagon with jars of pickles and stop at places like Davis Bakery, Corky & Lenny’s and other traditional Jewish stores, delis and bakeries to drop off their wares. The cukes were made using a traditional process and with a recipe passed down through generations of the Hermann family, who were of Hungarian Jewish descent.

It didn’t take long before much larger customers like distributors, national grocery chains and major restaurant and food service chains came calling. The business was taken over by sons Larry and Karl Hermann, and soon grew into a beloved regional brand. In 1998, the Hermanns inked a major private label deal with Nathan’s Famous. The company, the Hermann brand and private label business have been growing ever since.

So how did the Viancourt brothers ever get involved with a family business not only steeped in tradition, but also on a dynamic growth path?

“My brother and I met Larry about 13 years ago, and we bought the company about two and a half years ago,” says Viancourt. “I had run a food manufacturing business and later a candy business in North Carolina, then a produce processing and distribution business just outside of Pittsburgh, but I really wanted to find a business I could buy and run on my own.

“So I called Larry and told him how much I admired his business, and that was really the start of something of a tire kicking process that started in March of 2021,” adds Viancourt. “In early June, we signed an LOI [Letter of Intent] and the deal closed in September of 2021. I was fortunate in building a good relationship with Larry, and he trusted me enough to turn over the keys to his family business.”

Today, the Hermann Pickle Company has a complete line of pickles, serving the restaurant, food service and retail grocery chain channels of distribution in various cuts and brines like kosher dill, hot and spicy dill and an all-natural kosher dill.

“And then we have what I like to call our dessert pickles, like sweet horseradish, sweet and spicy and bread and butter,” adds Viancourt.

And they are still made by the traditional process that imparts an unmistakable flavor and quality.

“We have what I like to call a go-to market strategy, with about a 70-30% split between retail and food service,” says Viancourt. “We produce for some of the biggest name retailers in the grocery store channel as well as some of the biggest names in the food service and restaurant business and we’re well beyond local at this point.”

Indeed, the company’s reach, either under the Hermann brand or as a private label, is truly nationwide in its scope.

“We have a national footprint where our products are sold,” says Viancourt. “We are literally in every state in the union in one form or another, whether it is through the Hermann Brand or through a private label like Nathan’s Famous.”