UPDATE 9-20-2021: The shop opened on September 16.
Pickles are definitely a trend and now they're coming to Keller, with the imminent opening of Suck it! Jerky and Pickles, a new shop opening at 121 Olive St., a space that was previously home to a bakery called BakeologyDFW.
The shop will serve as a commissary kitchen and retail store featuring the pickles and beef jerky that owner Scott Spielman has been making since he founded his cottage business in 2019.
He hopes to be open in two weeks.
His pickled cucumbers with jalapeno pepper are his longtime bestseller, and in addition to pickled vegetables, he makes jerky in three varieties: original, hot, and peppered.
As a one-time marathon runner, he's particularly proud of the fact that his products have minimal processing. "I don't add any sugar or preservatives," he says. "The idea of being able to read the ingredients in your food is an important philosophy of mine."
A Fort Worth native who worked for the Chili's restaurant chain and in medical sales, Spielman began Suck It! in the prototypical cottage industry manner: He started doing pickles as a hobby and would share the results with friends.
"One week, my wife signed me up to do a table at the Keller Farmers Market," he says. "I was in pure panic mode, but all of my friends showed up in support and we sold out."
Suck It! became a staple at farmers markets in Keller, Saginaw, and Watauga, and he started selling online and at boutique food shops. He's now in talks with regional grocery chains. Sensing that business was about to outgrow the kitchen he was renting, he decided it was time to take the plunge.
"The Keller location has the kitchen space I need, and will also house a retail shop for my products," he says.
He's currently doing 11 pickled items and three jerky products, but intends to expand his lineup.
"This is the most I could do with my current circumstances but I plan to do more," he says. "I like to pickle weird things — broccoli and cauliflower and green beans and red onions. I do Hatch chiles when they're in season. I pickle okra, garlic, and sugar-snap peas."
Pickles and fermented foods of all kinds have enjoyed a resurgence, and also have a cherished place in Fort Worth, home to venerable pickle maker Best Maid as well as Martin House Brewing, which has earned fame for the massively popular series of pickle-flavored beers it has brewed.
"Pickles have had an interesting journey," Spielman says. "They started out as a survival method that you had to do, if you wanted a supply of beef and vegetables. But they've morphed into a luxury item. I make mine the way our grandparents made them, very simply, with vinegar, spices, and water. My stuff won't last two and a half years like what you see at supermarkets, because I don't put a bunch of sugar and preservatives in them. If pickles are made right, they are a very healthy snack."
He's also going to provide a platform for other vendors like himself to sell their goods at his store.
"I'm going to feature the little guy who makes a great product but doesn’t have the capital or venue to display and sell their stuff," he says. "This will be a one-stop shop, with items that people could previously only get on Saturday mornings, if they had the time to stop at the farmers market. Now they can visit on a Wednesday afternoon. Some of these things that people make are fantastic."
As for the saucy name, it's a reference to a tradition he had with his two sons, who are both now adults.
"When they were 8 and 9, they were on a little league team and I was assistant coach," he says. "I'd watch when kids went to bat and the parents would be yelling at them. I always just said, 'Don't suck.' Later in life, that morphed into 'Be smart, be safe, and don't suck.'"