They were bankers, produce brokers, farmers, merchants, physicians, railroad men, and insurance executives.
Together, they established the Mt. Olive Pickle Company in January 1926 in what they envisioned as a community stock proposition. Today, Mt. Olive is the maker of the best-selling brand of pickles, peppers and relishes in U.S. grocery stores, with distribution in all 50 states.
To mark its 90th anniversary, Mt. Olive Pickle Company and the Wayne County Public Library will present a public exhibit at Steele Memorial Library throughout the month of August.
The exhibit, 90 Years of the Pickle People, goes on display Friday, August 5 in the J.D. Evans Community Room. Prepared by Marty Tschetter, Wayne County local historian, and Lynn Williams, public relations manager at Mt. Olive Pickle, the exhibit will be open to the public during regular library hours.
“Mt. Olive Pickle has such a great story,” Ms. Williams said. “It was started by a group of local business people who recognized that if they could create a new market for area farmers, the whole town would benefit. This exhibit gives us an opportunity to learn more about who some of these people were, and to make connections to today.”
The exhibit is not intended to be an exhaustive look at the 37 original shareholders who invested in the company to launch it in 1926, she said.
“We have gaps about some of the shareholders on the list, and I hope the exhibit becomes a catalyst for people in the community and shareholder families to help us flush out the details,” she said.
The exhibit will also feature a history timeline and images of employees over the years, plus artifacts that highlight some of the company’s marketing efforts and nostalgia.
Timed to coincide with the company’s annual shareholders meeting in August, the exhibit will feature two public events this month.
The first is a program co-sponsored by the Mount Olive Area Historical Association. Set for Tuesday, August 9 at 6 p.m. at the library, “Glimpses of the Past” will include an overview of company history presented by Ms. Williams and Tschetter. Those attending will be encouraged to share their “pickle plant” stories.
“Mt. Olive Pickle has remained true to its roots – the company has served as an economic mainstay in the Mount Olive area for nine decades,” Ms. Williams said. “Everyone in Mount Olive has either worked here, or is kin to someone who worked here. We each have our own stories to share.”
The second event will be the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce’s Mount Olive Mingle, set for Thursday, August 18 from 5:30-7:30, again at Steele Memorial Library. This will be another time for an overview of the company’s history and some of the exhibit highlights, as well as story-sharing. Ms. Williams noted that the Mount Olive Chamber was formally organized in 1930 by many of the same business leaders who started Mt. Olive Pickle.
“I have always been amazed at the level of vision among these business leaders – they made decisions based on what was good for the community, and we continue to benefit from that today,” she said.
In business since 1926, Mt. Olive Pickle Company is the largest privately-held pickle company in the nation, with operations encompassing one million square feet of production and warehouse space spread over 150 acres in Mount Olive. The company employs about 600 year-round with another 350 seasonal workers in the summer “green season.”