Film by Johannes Kroemer and Vanina Feldsztein of Ninetynine Films
Meet Shamus Jones, the 29-year-old phenom – founder, master-briner, owner — behind Brooklyn Brine.
You’ve likely seen Jones’ crunchy and flavorful pickles and pickled veggies in the city’s specialty food shops. Now they’re carried by Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma, and featured in stores on the West Coast and in Japan and Australia. Brooklyn Brine is a Brooklyn indie-food mad success story, and they are growing.
Jones operates his pickle kingdom from a Gowanus warehouse, on President near Fourth Avenue, where he gets about 1,000 pounds of cucumbers delivered every weekday. When we visited—myself and photographer/film-maker husband-wife team Johannes Kroemer and Vanina Feldsztein of Ninetynine Films —I was shocked to discover how small Brooklyn Brine’s pickle-making team actually is. Over the holiday season, Jones and his staff of four full-timers and two-part-timers were working till midnight to pickle 3,000 to 4,000 jars a day to fulfill 22,000 orders worldwide. And these picklers do everything by hand: no preservatives, no strange, unidentifiable ingredients, fresh everything.
“We don’t cut any corners,” says Jones, a very affable, personable guy. “We are pickle nerds, each and every one of us.”
Very soon Jones will reveal his “pickle shack.” He’s taking over the space he occupies on President (he’s been sharing it until recently with cooks from another restaurant), and turning it into a retail shop/community center/pickle display area. He’s hoping kids will come tour and learn how to make pickles, that locals will come see the lovely pickle displays, and other cool stuff like that.
Jones’ is a familiar tale—he was laid off (from his job as a chef) in 2009, and decided to start making and selling something that he felt passionately about; in this case, pickles, after Jones’ pickling efforts were complimented widely while he was working in the restaurant biz.
Jones says when he devoted himself to pickles, he found his calling, and a title he adores: Master Briner.
“It’s a priceless title. I’d like to get it framed and outlined in diamonds.”
So young, I ask Jones if he thinks he’s in pickles for the long haul.
“Oh yeah, I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life,” Jones says. “I love it. I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep this going.”