Pickles with a punch now made in La Grange
Co-owner Mike Kaspar holds a jar of spicy pickles at Suckerpunch in La Grange. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
What’s in store
LOCATION: 23B S. La Grange Road
PRODUCTS: pickles at $9 for 24 ounces, Bloody Mary mix $10 for 32 ounces, ketchup $7 for 9 ounces.
PHONE: (312) 560- 2215
WEBSITE: www. suckerpunchgourmet.com and Facebook
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:05AM
LA GRANGE — It wasn’t long before Dave van Alphen found himself in a bit of a pickle after launching Suckerpunch, where he makes gourmet treats with a kick in La Grange.
But it was a happy problem. In just four months, demand for spicy pickles, Bloody Mary mix and flavorful ketchup exceeded van Alphen’s ability to produce it on the days he rented space.
“We began looking at industrial sites in La Grange and Brookfield, and this became available right in the downtown,” van Alphen said.
Van Alphen modified a former commercial kitchen, used primarily for baking, at 23B S. La Grange Road with an entrance in the rear. The oven was removed, adding counter space and room for five digital electric induction heaters. He began production July 1.
“They’re more energy efficient and we can control the temperature better without a lot of heat going up the sides of the pan,” said co-owner Mike Kaspar, who has tweaked the production process.
While van Alphen makes sales calls, Kaspar and an assistant now can produce up to 20 cases a day of 12 jars each instead of two or three cases at the previous kitchen.
The partners also don’t have to lug all of the jars and equipment out of a rented kitchen and store it in their garages and part of a warehouse after making each batch.
“I would lose track of what we had and what we needed,” said van Alphen, who has worked as a graphic designer and owned an art gallery.
While caring for two young sons at home in Western Springs, van Alphen developed a taste for pickles after learning to make his own and experimenting with recipes.
“After six months of trial and error, I came up with a recipe I really liked,” he said.
Kaspar, who had worked as a business developer for Walgreens, said he’d find a jar on his porch periodically from his neighbor, van Alphen, asking for feedback.
“It starts out dilly and sweet and then the spiciness comes a little afterward. You sort of get sucker punched,” van Alphen explained.
The pickles are sold at Casey’s Market in Western Springs, DeVries Groceries in La Grange and now at Whole Foods stores.
Some of the spices used in making the pickles also are used in the ketchup, and pureed pickles are an ingredient in the Bloody Mary mix.
“We’re starting to look at liquor stores for the Bloody Mary mix,” van Alphen said. “The food industry is all new to me, but it’s exciting.”