A peek into the old Pickle Factory’s past
Ask a recent resident of our community if they know where the Pickle Factory is located and they might know that it is on the north end of the village near Elm Street and Grove Street. They might not even know that it is a building housing a number businesses and offices. And they probably wouldn't know that it once was a flourishing factory located right in the village.
Mr. Louis C. Forman lived with his family in a house on East Avenue near Irondequoit Country Club. He had a very large garden in which he grew vegetable and among them, cucumbers. He also had a greenhouse and a barn out behind his home. He began making pickles and established a small business with himself as the packer, salesman and deliveryman.
He was content with this small business until the evening of June 19, 1913, when something caused a fire in his little factory which spread to his home. Only the barn with his horses and wagons was spared.
Mr. Forman, known to his friends as L.C., wanted rebuild and he believed it would be good to be located near a railroad siding. He was able to purchase some land at the end of Elm Street very near the Depot and at the same time he was able to buy the house at 71 N. Main St., where he live for the rest of his life. The factory was built on the land he had purchased and he began the production of pickles and sauerkraut in two small rooms on the main floor. The second level held a laboratory where new ideas for products were conceived and tested. Out of this testing came the product that made Mr. Forman's pickles well known across the country and beyond. That product was Piccalilli, a spicy relish which immediately became a favorite of folks who like hotdogs and hamburgers and it was sold nation wide.
Mr. Forman liked to hire local help. He was able to purchase a number of homes along Elm and High Streets and he made these available for his employees and their families. His daughters married men who worked for the firm and they all lived in that vicinity. Mr. Forman had a successful business and a small compound of family and friends on Elm Street.
When the factory and production were in full swing, a number of high school boys found employment during the summer or after school and when World War II broke out, many of Forman's workforce joined the armed services. Even with the schoolboys, it was difficult to find workers. During the years of 1943 to 1945, Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated in a stockade at Cobb's Hill and these men were trucked out to the factory in Pittsford to help get out the pickles. Even so were German housed in nearby Newark trucked to the site to continue production.
An interesting event occurred concerning a German man who had been one of the prisoners who worked at the Pickle Factory. His name was Karl Kraft and he worked from 1944 to the end of the war. Many years later, after becoming a successful businessman himself, he and his wife returned to Pittsford. He must have felt that he was not mistreated and that he admired the community. As it happened he met two of the young men (now much older) with whom he had worked all of those years before. It was an amazing reunion.
Those of us who grew up in the village would always know when pickles, sauerkraut and piccalilli were in production. Oh, the wonderful spicy smells that wafted over the collage would make mouths waters. When Piccalilli became so popular, sauerkraut was produced in a plant in Palmyra, and that was how production was handled during that Forman ownership. The business and buildings were sold to RT French in 1960, expecting that production would remain. That did not happen and there is probably not a jar of pickles or relish or sauerkraut bearing the Forman label to be found.
Now, only the building bearing the name of The Old Pickle Factory remains housing offices and business. Gone is the bustling factory that gave work to many residents and created wonderful aromas and products. Not many people outside of the community realized that Pittsford had a factory that was known far and wide.