"A pickle is just a cucumber with experience," says Edward Ilyasov, the owner of Uncle Edik's Pickles, a one-month-old pickle shop in Fresh Meadows, Queens, when discussing what it is that makes his creations stand out across the many other iterations of pickles sold around New York.
Clearly, the 29-year-old knows what he's talking about: after years spent pickling cucumbers in his basement, Ilyasov quit his cushy job on Wall Street to pursue his hobby full time—and things seem to be looking up. Currently selling about 600 jars of his product per week at $8-$10 a pop, the business owner is also preparing to launch a line of pickled tomatoes, for which there is already a very long wait list.
Although, while producing the jars as a side job, Ilyasov would keep an ongoing list of interested customers, he now only sells his pickles to folks who walk into the store. Three flavors are on offer: regular, spicy and the ultra-spicy habanero option. Each 32-ounce jar holds about four-and-a-half pickles and all are certified kosher.
Finding a good pickle in New York is a relatively easy task but there is something about Ilyasov's creations that surprises the palate. Unlike other aged cucumbers, his are extremely crunchy, seemingly retaining that characteristic even though they are drenched in liquid.
That might be the result of Ilyasov's insistence at hand-packing each jar (production is about a week long) or, perhaps, the use of a cold aging process. "To make the typical pickle, you put salt, garlic and whatever else and allow nature to take over so good, healthy bacteria can grow," he explains, also mentioning he uses Kirby 3A cucumbers to prepare the fare. "We don't let bacteria grow but turn the cucumber sour by using vinegar and a spice mixture that derives from my travels. There is no fermentation involved in my process."
The result is an extremely flavorful pickle that quite literally titillates the taste buds. Fair warning, though: the habanero pickle is very spicy.
A big portion of Ilyasov’s business calls back to events that have shaped his own life. Take the shop’s name, for example, which stems from the owner's name in Russian ("My family is 75% Bukharian, 25% Persian and 100% Jewish!") and his becoming an uncle the same year he started pickling.
The logo found on each jar also hinges on the personal: Ilyasov recalls wearing a sombrero and sporting a mustache during a few key life events that spurred him to turn his hobby into a business. The logo—a sombrero and a mustache—works to remind the pickle guru about what is important to him.
Customers will also notice a note on each jar—"best served with vodka!" That would be another reference to Ilyasov's upbringing. "In the Bukharian community, we are known to chase our drinks with pickles or pickle juice," he explains.
The shop owner hopes to soon outgrow his 700-square-feet store. "Once I reach about 2,000 jars a week in production and sales, I'll be able to perhaps expand," he reveals. "Once that happens, the goal is to distribute all over the nation."
For some reason, after tasting his delightful and refreshing pickles, we have no doubt that future will very soon become a reality.