DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE STAFF
KINGSLAND — As Wally McKinnon and his Willow Mist Store crew — Kim McKinnon and Celeste Wright — made their rounds at various festivals and the Burnet Farmers’ Market, they felt they needed something that really hit it off with customers.
Oh, sure, they had good selections of jams, jellies, salsas and other canned items, but they just didn’t have one particular item for which people clamored. So being a proactive entrepreneur of sorts, Wally began doing a bit of market research. The low-tech variety.
He asked people what they wanted.
“Well, we had a pickle recipe, so we gave it a try,” he said.
With Texas laws written the way they are, McKinnon and crew could set up a small, in-home pickling and canning operation as a “cottage” business. This encourages people to try their hand at small-business operations without forcing them to either invest in a large, commercial kitchen or rent space.
Wally picked up a pickle certification and went to pickling.
The pickles are canned in a mix of vinegar and sugar and topped with habanero peppers.
“Plus, there’s a secret ingredient,” Wally said with a grin. “I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s on the bottle. All the ingredients have to be on the bottle.”
So with a batch of pickles, the crew hit a few more festivals.
“At first, we called them the Titanic pickles, but that kind of sank quickly,” Wally said.
Celeste, who enjoyed riding motorcycles, offered up the name Biker Pickles. And it made all the difference.
Of course, a name can only go so far. What mattered — what would keep people coming back for more — was how good they tasted.
“Wherever we go, we have people asking us for them,” Celeste said.
“If we show up, and we don’t have them, people get disappointed,” Wally added.
While they aren’t pickling giants by any means, the three see it as a way to add a little more jingle to their pockets.
“We were just looking for a way to make a little extra money,” Wally said. “We each have other jobs, but we needed a little extra.”
It’s a need many people understand but might not know how to remedy. Wally pointed out that sometimes it’s as simple as making pickles.
“We tried everything,” he said. “Some things didn’t work, but pickles sure did.”
The three sell pickles at numerous festivals across the Highland Lakes as well as at the Burnet Farmers’ Market spring through fall. People also can pick them up at several places in Kingsland including the Copper Kettle at Ace Hardware and Willow Mist Massage Therapy.
The takeaway, Wally explained, is you just go out, find a need and then fill it.
Go to www.willowmiststore.com for more products and where to find them.