For Marcia’s Munchies creator Marcia Nodel, her newly opened, 16,000 square foot facility in Inkster is full of possibilities.
“I was standing on the edge of a cliff,” she says of her pickle business, which until recently operated out of a space one-eighth that size, first in Hamtramck and then in Warren. Her Sweet ‘N Sassy Pickles, Little Hotties spicy pickles, Cherry Pops pickled tomatoes and pickled asparagus are some of the products that she sells locally to Papa Joe’s, Plum Market, the Franklin Cider Mill and the soon-to-be-opened Whole Foods in Birmingham, as well as through her website across the country. Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor even has a sandwich – Andy W’s High Fryer – that features the Little Hotties with crispy fried boneless Amish chicken. With the increased capacity and automation of the new facility, she now has distribution at all Kroger supermarkets throughout the state.
“That’s something I’d never seen, my products going down the assembly line,” she says of the new opportunity afforded to her.
But why pickles? Thirty-five years ago, when her son Jordan was little, Nodel learned how to can seasonal produce and make jams. She fell upon a recipe for bread and butter pickles that she eventually made her own. Every summer, she’d make some and give to friends.
“I wasn’t Mother Earth. It was a hobby. I liked doing it, and it became the kind of thing where people liked it and expected it. For the Jewish holidays, I’d go around and drop some pickles and jams off, and I liked doing that.”
It is also thanks to Jordan that Nodel stopped making caramel corn, one of her earliest “munchies,” when he was still a kid, as he complained it was bad for his teeth. Since then, she has focused on products with a longer shelf life.
Eventually, says Nodel, about five to seven years ago, when many of her other friends were spending their afternoons playing cards, she formalized the business, which has since gone on to win the prestigious 2016 Good Food Awards, thanks to her use of local, natural ingredients free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “I always knew you’re supposed to do what you do best. I knew how to make pickles.”
Today’s consumers are particularly supportive of these types of products. “Ten years ago, if you saw a jar of pickles for $8, you’d keep walking. Today people realize the difference. They’re very conscious about quality food.” Nodel is out in the community testing her products and receiving feedback at stores like Plum. She also provides recipe cards for those who still think of pickles solely as a side for a sandwich.
However, after spending all day in her industrial kitchen, Nodel no longer cooks for pleasure. The Birmingham resident has her family close by for a meal, as her son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter live in Birmingham as well. She marvels that “through osmosis, [Jordan’s] become a cook. He must have absorbed it somehow.”
Plus, there’s the plethora of other options that come with her move downtown a few years ago. “If I go to CVS, Starbucks, the farmers market, of course all the restaurants, I’ll take the dog. It’s a great community.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent