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No Pandemic Slowdown for Frogtown pickle makers

The Kruegermanns

Carl (left) and Greg Kruegermann say that the coronavirus pandemic hasn't slowed down production at Kruegermann Pickles, a demand that is fueled by stay-at-home residents who want well-stocked pantries with products that need no refrigeration.

“We survived WWI, WWII, Russian pillaging, and socialism that made my dad leave Germany in the '60s. We are survivors,” says Greg Kruegermann about how Kruegermann Pickles & Sauerkraut is weathering the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. 

Indeed, the longtime Frogtown factory continues to churn out thousands of jars of assorted pickles, red beets, cabbage and more. Last week, more than 10,000 jars of sauerkraut were bottled onsite in Elysian Valley not far from where, at one time, factories like Hostess Bakery, Dolly Madison and Van de Kamp Bakeries were rolling out goods.

Today, Greg and brother Carl continue the Kruegermann tradition in their 25,000 square-foot manufacturing and storage space. They inherited the business from their parents Kurt and Helga who immigrated to the area and set up their pickle empire in 1965. Kurt learned the art of brining from his father Carl who, in 1896, started producing pickles in Luebbenau, a small German town outside of Berlin.

Overall, the pandemic has created opportunities while presenting challenges for the Kruegermann brothers, especially on the sales side. Kruegermann products are found locally and in Western states from Texas to Washington.

Many restaurants and stores that stocked their products have closed; Greg estimates about a 30 percent reduction. Amazon and online orders, however, are “skyrocketing. It’s hard to keep up sometimes,” he says, attributing stay-at-home residents who are creating pantries with products that need no refrigeration.

Brisk sales from local hotspots – like Frogtown Breweries, Wax Paper, Baller Hardware and Hinterhof – are also a factor. In the end, Greg estimates that in just the last couple of months, “we are probably at or above last year’s sales.”

But Greg has bigger concerns, namely, a cucumber crop shortage caused by a drought in Northern California. Since Mexican crops aren’t ready yet, Greg has to weigh the ramifications of using alternate suppliers, especially if the vegetable doesn’t meet their high expectations. If a cucumber isn’t perfect, “we’re going to use it in other ways,” he says.  “We can chip or put them into mixes.”

Finally, the overall future of Kruegermann is hazy. Greg’s three children – some participate on the sales and marketing side – have expressed little interest in carrying on the tradition.

“My brother and I are getting tired,” says Greg but who adds: “I love it here. It’s a challenge. I take a step back and watch the process on the factory floor, and realize I still enjoy this, just like I enjoy seeing our product on pallets and then on supermarket shelves.”

Poll: What specialty food/drinks are you ordering online?

You voted:

Biz Buzz Asks: How’s business these days?

We asked the question John Nese, owner of Galco's Soda Pop Shop in Highland Park.

How's business Galco's soda shop

Galco's is at 5702 York Blvd.

Navigating pandemic waters

Councilmember David Ryu and Bet Tzedek legal representatives will lead a virtual presentation to help small businesses navigate through these uncertain times.

Held Thursday, September 10 from noon to 1:30pm, the webinar will feature topics including government relief programs, complying with emergency orders, contracts licensing, employment, workplace regulations and more.

Bet Tzedek is part of L.A. Represents, a coalition which provides pro bono help for qualifying Angelenos.

Go here to register and for more information.

Get a 'Big Picture' view

Small businesses can learn how to adapt and pivot during the pandemic during an upcoming free webinar sponsored by the SCORE LA.

“Turning COVID-19 Challenges into Opportunities” will feature real-world examples from product/services companies as well as basic e-commerce plans and resources that will help take your small business to the next level.

This free webinar takes place Monday September 28 from 10:30am – 12:30pm. Click here for more details and how to sign up.

Last call

September 14-18 is the last round for applications for the Los Angeles Regional COVID-19 Recovery Fund. Established to help microentrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits, the fund is a joint program by the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles and philanthropic partners.

To date, the fund has already awarded $3.2 million in grants to more than 300 L.A. County recipients. Awards range from $5,000 to $25,000

Go here to learn more and to apply.

Coming up: National Small Business Week

Traditionally held in May, the National Small Business Week will take place virtually from September 22-24 and will feature educational panels and honor national achievements from veterans, women and minority-owned businesses, including naming this year’s National Small Business Person of the Year.

Go here to learn more and to register for events

That’s it for this issue!

Stay cool, wear a mask and keep supporting small businesses as often as you can! We will be back next week with more Biz Buzz.

-- Brenda Rees

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