A sample of what you'll find in
I Know That Name! The People Behind Canada's Best-Known Brands From Elizabeth Arden to Walter Zeller 

Walter and Jeanny Bick (Bick’s Pickles)

          Walter and Jeanny Bick never intended to get into the pickle business.  But when warm and humid weather in the summer of 1944 produced a glut of cucumbers, the couple was desperate to salvage tons of cukes before they rotted in their fields.

          The Bicks dug out a family recipe from their native Holland and began producing dill pickles in a barn at Knollview, their 116-acre farm in the former suburb of Scarborough, now part of the Greater Toronto Area. “We got into pickles by sheer accident,” said Walter.

          The rest, as they say, is condiment history.

          The family sold the cattle, chicken and pigs they’d been raising since Mr. Bick’s parents George and Lena Bick bought the farm in 1939 after coming to Canada from Amsterdam.  Instead of selling their cucumbers to stores and markets, they turned them into pickles, said Walter, who apprenticed in the Dutch banking industry before coming to Canada at age 22.

          In the first few years, the Bicks packed their cucumber crop in 50-gallon barrels of brine that were sold to restaurants, butcher shops and army camps in the Toronto area.  In 1952, they entered the retail trade when they packaged whole dills in 24-ounce jars under the Bick's name, with the now-familiar cucumber in place of the letter ‘i’ on the labels.

          Soon after, the business expanded into a renovated barn on their farm and Canada's fastest growing manufacturer of pickles and relishes was on its way to leadership in the Canadian pickle business.

          As their business prospered, the Bicks saw many changes: Their product line expanded to include sweet mixed pickles, gherkins, cocktail onions, hot peppers, pickled beets, relishes and sauerkraut; in 1958 their barn burnt in a fire and was replaced with a modern building.  Gradually, sales of their products spread from Ontario to western and eastern Canada and around the world.

          In 1966, with a staff that ranged between 125 in the summer and 65 in the winter, the Bicks made their biggest change when they sold their company, their farm and their home to Robin Hood Flour Mills.  Until November 2001, the company, known in Canada as Robin Hood Multifoods, operated a 100,000-square-foot production facility and office on the property where the Bicks barrelled their first dills.  Robin Hood now runs a Bick's plant in Dunnville, on the Niagara Peninsula.

          “We sold because the company was bigger than we could handle,” said Walter.  “I was never a great delegator.  In the beginning, I never realized we needed a sales manager, a purchasing agent but as business increased we had to hire these people...however the family run business way did not disappear.”

          The company’s current owner is a wholly-owned subsidiary of International Multifoods of Wayzata, Minneapolis.  In addition to 50 different varieties of Bick’s pickles and relishes, its consumer products lineup includes Habitant Pickles, Gattuso Olives, Woodman’s Horseradish, Robin Hood Flour, Monarch Cake & Pastry Flour and Red River Cereals.

Name Dropper: Like a cucumber on a cutting board, the Bicks’ farm in the former Toronto borough of Scarborough was sliced in two when Highway 401 was built in the mid-1950s.