Water Street in Plymouth is stuffed with wide patios attached to waterside restaurants, small gift shops hawking T-shirts and postcards, and local coffee shops serving up cold brew and cappuccinos. But in the middle of all the beach-themed tourist destinations sits a small shop with a vibe entirely its own.
“When people come in here they say, ‘Oh, this takes me back,’ ” Lorraine Connell said of her country-store style shop. “And that’s what I love hearing.”
The cozy shop — called The Pretentious Pickle Company — is a briny throwback to the days of fishing big, kosher pickles out of a barrel at the local general store. In the center of the room is a table covered in small jars for customers to sample from, and along the edges are more than a dozen pickled goods, including candied jalapenos, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, onions, asparagus and okra. As for pickles — the cucumber kind — there are spicy dill, garlic dill, bread and butter, kosher dill and beer-infused.
“I’m someone who is genuinely excited to come to work every day,” she said. “The world needs more picklers.”
The Pretentious Pickle Company was born three years ago when Connell, who had dozens of family pickling recipes stored up from her father and uncle, tired of making her goods just for gifts. In 2016, she started selling picked tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables at the Plymouth Farmers Market, and was soon selling at up to three regular markets a week, as well as at holiday and summer festivals.
“We were doing so many events and I was so blessed to grow a little local following, but it was really becoming a lot,” she said. “And I was doing it all out of a rented commercial kitchen. I didn’t even have my own space.”
At the urging of her husband, Richard, and daughter, Christine Sylvester, Connell set out in search of the perfect place for her company to call home.
“We were lugging everything back and forth, from market to market, but in the back of our minds we kept this dream alive,” Sylvester, who manages the day-to-day operation of the store, said. “She got so much awesome support. She was getting to know customers, they were noticing if she ever missed a market, and they really made her feel like she’d be supported if she wanted to make the leap to a store.”
The family trio spent months sniffing around the South Shore for the perfect place, and it was Richard Connell who finally had a vision of what the Water Street store could be.
“Every shop I saw I said ‘This is my shop, this is my shop,’ and he said ’No, this isn’t it. This won’t make you happy,” Lorraine said. “Then I found this place and I couldn’t even see it as a shop, but he designed it and made it happen for me.”
It wasn’t long before the store was set to open that Richard Connell died at the age of 67 — dramatically altering how Lorraine saw her dream pickle shop. On the April day The Pretentious Pickle Company was first set to open, Lorraine was at her husband’s funeral.
She talks about her husband fondly, and warm memories for her are all over the store. Behind the cash register hangs a framed photo of Richard, and over the stove in the shop’s back kitchen hangs a sign he picked for her with the words “What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
“I always see him sitting on the porch, with a big smile on his face,” Connell said. “He loved it here.”
Sylvester knows her mom still struggles with the loss of her husband, but says running the company is the best thing she could be doing.
“I wanted to tell her to just slow down and process and grieve, but she just couldn’t stay quiet,” Sylvester said. “She’s a worker.”
And work she has. Connell — who says she’s called “Nana Pickles” by her grandchildren — spends hours shopping, preparing, canning and creating her wares each week. Everything she makes has a shelf life of two years or longer, and they all rest for different times, depending on the produce.
Anytime she wants to experiment, she makes 60 or 70 jars of whatever her latest creation is, and she said she makes up to 750 jars of pickled goods per month.
“I don’t think small,” she said.
But no matter how big her dream gets, she said there’s one thing she won’t compromise on: quality.
“I’m learning that I’d rather not have something on the shelves than have something that isn’t exactly right,” Connell said. “People will say, ‘Oh, I really wanted this one thing,’ but if it needs to sit longer — even two days longer — I’m going to let it sit. I would rather lose a sale than lose a customer.”
The Pretentious Pickle Company is located at 190 Water St., Plymouth and open every day of the week. Small jars of pickles sell for $6 and large jars are $9. For more information, visit pretentiouspickle.com.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.