J Shogren + Shanghai’d – Pickled Pickles Panger Polka

Athens couple creates “phinancial phuture” with gourmet pickle business
Source:  Meg Dure – Athens Patch
phicklespicklesAngie Tillman took the love of her husband, Phin (short for Phinizy), and a simple green tomato pickle and used it to start her own phantastic phenomena – Phickles Pickles. Together, this local couple proves how phun and phunky it can be to create and market products all over the United States.

Angie and Phin’s story began when they met atAthens First Bank and Trust. Angie was a teller. Phin was a customer. A minor misunderstanding developed one day with a transaction and the two had what Angie refers to as a ”fight.” After all was said and done, Phin offered an apology, and Angie said she would accept if he’d take her out to dinner!

On that date, Phin would offer Angie one of his green tomato pickles, a slice of bread and a cold beer. After a while, he would offer her a proposal of marriage. She accepted all.

As newlyweds, they enjoyed making pickles together and giving them as Christmas gifts to family and friends. And later, in 2009, when Phin’s construction business hit a downward spiral in the sinking economy, they were trying to find a way to, basically, as Angie put it, “make a living.”

Angie and Phin felt they might have a chance of using their pickle prowess to help get them out of the pickle in which they found themselves. They turned their whine into brine, and Phickles Pickles was born.

During a quiet weekend at home alone, Angie found herself bored, and decided to accept a Friend request on Facebook from Frances Harper. It was the first time she had participated in any type of social media. And from that small seed, nurtured by a bit of networking through Twitter, and later a blog, Southland Roots — a cottage industry, or pickle parlor, began to sprout.

What started out as a simple act of sharing pickled green tomatoes from their home kitchen has literally blossomed into a thriving business. They recently moved production to a modern commercial location just off of the Atlanta Highway behind the doors where Hot Dishes used to do business.

“We thought it would be a fun to build our name recognition and label using Phin’s name as a moniker. Our motto: ‘Have Phun. Eat a Phickle’ and things just took off from there,” explained Angie. “I started out just selling the jars right on my porch at home. Jana Hollingsworth bought the first jar.”

The product line has expanded beyond the small green tomatoes, and now includes Stix (carrots), Okies (okra), Snaps (green beans), Hotties (jalapenos), Spears (asparagus) and the original Wedgies (tomatoes).

“Thinking up the names is really ‘phun!’ It just seems to conform to my philosophy of life – if it ain’t fun, don’t do it, a phrase I stole from BA Anderson,” said Angie. And so the fun began. “I really love the people part of it,” she explained. “Phin takes care of the nuts and bolts and business part.”

But products – no matter how good they are – don’t sell themselves. And Angie has used her many talents and energies to “take it to the web” where much of the marketing takes place. Creating the persona of the Phickle Chickle, she blogs and promotes at Southland Roots.

She also travels extensively to all types of festivals and fairs where she sets up a booth to meet and greet, and, hopefully, sell lots of pickles. As her venture has progressed, so has its popularity. She now has a booth at the prestigious Williams Sonoma Artisan Market at Lenox Square in Atlanta every first Saturday of each month.

“I just got back from appearing on a panel at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, DC,” she said. Appearing at the invitation of John T. Edge, editor of Garden and Gun Magazine, she was one of the featured experts on a program, “Reviving the Relish Tray.” The magazine featured their Okies in a recent issue.

Her products are also found in many local Athens restaurants and bars. Just by chance, one night at the East West Bistro the bartender used brine from a jar of Okies instead of olives, and all of a sudden the Phickletini was born! Other bars use Phickles in their signature drinks as well.

The Tillmans, along with their friends and supporters, continue to brainstorm with creative ways to use Phickles. While adhering to their motto–If it ain’t fun, don’t do it–their small empire is destined to phast-forward in the phuture.

For a complete list of local places to buy the gourmet pickles, just click here.

Wonderful recipies here