Jim and Wanda Henderson opened The Pickle Barrel fifteen years ago after renovating the former gift shop in Cook Forest that had sat empty for a number of years. They not only put a large amount of work into the building and the business, but they also built their home into the structure, as well.
According to Heather Siverling (pictured above) – a vendor at the business who also functions as Wanda’s “right hand” – the Pickle Barrel has far more than most people would ever guess.
Currently, they have about a dozen vendors that retail a whole range of products through the store.
Siverling herself provides some wholesale items and a number of handmade goods that range from wooden saltbox houses, wooden flower arrangements, and some other woodcrafts to upcycled items. Siverling noted that one of her “coolest” pieces to date was a piece of a garage door that had some inlays. She then filled the inlays with pennies, built a frame around it, added legs, and created an entirely unique table.
Unique items are par for the course at The Pickle Barrel.
Some of the offerings include old shutters decorated in primitive or country styles, beautiful handmade tapestries, hand-knitted animals, handmade jewelry, decorative items of all sorts, and even some vintage and antique items.
One of the newer vendors takes old windows and hand paints them as decorative items.
Another vendor creates American Girl Doll style clothing.
Siverling says the items are “unbeatable.”
“I personally have bought a lot of those for my little one, and I’ll even put them through the washer and the dryer,” she noted.
“They are quality pieces. The stitching does not come out. I’ve never had a single problem with them. I can say that I would buy those any day.”
Siverling noted that some of the vendors have been with the business for a long time, while others change from time to time. Every year the business gets some new ones. There are also some vendors who only provide items for the three days of the Gingerbread Tour at the end of the season.
“We do some rearranging, some shoving, some cram-packing, and then it’s on,” Siverling said, noting that the business gets incredibly busy during the days of the Gingerbread Tour.
While the vendors provide an entire range of items for shoppers to browse, as the name of the business implies, pickles also play a central role. The business includes a “pickle museum” with pickle-related pieces from around the world.
“People from all over the U.S. and out of the U.S. that will gift them things, and Wanda is so wonderful about making a little card of where they’re from and how they got it. There’s a story to each one of the pieces in the pickle museum,” Siverling noted.
There are also lots of pickles and pickle-flavored items available for purchase.
“Where else can you find pickle soda, pickle chips, pickle cotton candy?” Siverling asked.
“I love it when kids come because they’re like ‘pickle cotton candy! it’s so cool!’ and I love to see their faces as they open it and try it because you just never know. Some things are sweet pickle-flavored, and some are dill.”
Along with sweet and dill pickles, shoppers can choose from a whole range of other pickled items including pickled beans, pickled corn, pickled brussels sprouts, and pickled eggs of all kinds, not to mention relishes and more.
“There’s quite a variety, and it doesn’t stay long. Every week or two, she’s ordering more jars, it just moves.”
Along with the pickled items, which all come from an Amish company in Millersburg, Ohio, The Pickle Barrel also sells a range of salsas, including specialty ones like pineapple salsa and peach salsa, as well as a vast variety of jams.
“We have FROG Jam, Traffic Jam, Gooseberry Jam, Elderberry Jam, and of course, all the regular jams like strawberry and red raspberry, and things like apple butter.”
According to Siverling, jams and jellies are also a huge draw for the business.
“A lot of customers come in and buy four or five jams because they’re going to make a basket for a Christmas gift. That’s a big thing. We have local people or people who come every year to get jellies for baskets. You’ll see them come through the door and beeline for that jar room. They know what they’re after.”
“It’s really kind of a smorgasbord in here. There are just a lot of cool things.”
One of the other things that sets The Pickle Barrel apart is their pricing.
“Everything has a nice price point,” Siverling said.
“We want stuff to move, we want people to enjoy it, we don’t want to sit and look at it forever, and I don’t want to keep dusting it, so we really try to keep our prices decent.”
The Pickle Barrel opens each May for the season and remains open until the last day of the Gingerbread Tour in early winter. They are open seven days per week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.