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Walter and Jeanny Bick
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,
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
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.