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Brothers find new business growing into quite a pickle

Ben and Dan Farrell own a pickle factory. "Two Bros. The Pickle Pros" is their slogan.

"The first thing people think is that it's a joke," Dan Farrell, 25, said.

The brothers are laughing about it too, but for a different reason. They're making money manufacturing the lowly deli dill.

The Farrells learned to make pickles less than a year ago, but already they are selling as many of the kosher dills as they can make.

"We are doing real well _ better than expected," Dan said.

The secret to their success?

"They're always better than what people have, and they are always cheaper," said Ben Farrell, 28.

Last summer the Farrells turned a small strip shopping center storefront on Walsingham Road into Two Bros. Pickles.

In front they sell pickle paraphernalia _ pickle pens, 4-foot-long plastic pickles for the pool, and T-shirts and sweat shirts with the brothers' logo on them.

Decorations include pickle posters they got from Pickle Packers International: "Shape up with Pickles." "Party time is pickle time." "National Pickle Week."

"You have to have a good sense of humor to be in this business," Ben said.

The factory is in the back _ a mini-Rube Goldberg arrangement made up of tanks, bins, a conveyor belt and walk-in coolers.

"It might not look it, but this is real high-tech for this business," Dan said.

Once a week, usually on Saturdays, they bring in a truck groaning from the weight of a ton or two of pickle-sized cucumbers. In the spring and fall, the cucumbers are mostly locally grown, but out of season they are imported from the north or from Mexico.

The cucumbers are dumped in a bin of water, washed, sorted for size into five-gallon buckets already full of pickling spices, then sent down a conveyor belt to a tank valve.

There the pickles are covered with a sinus-clearing mixture of water, vinegar, garlic, dill and turmeric; sealed, then stored in a walk-in refrigerator where they become pickles after two weeks.

"It's simple. You get the cucumbers; you make the pickles," Dan said.

The process is simple, but their first efforts weren't successful, Ben said.

"We started making them and they came out all wrong," Ben said, adding they just didn't taste right.

The brothers sought help from the company they buy their spices from and a professor at the University of North Carolina who specializes in pickles.

They helped toy around with the recipe and gave the brothers a lot of talk about adjusting the recipe for the pH of the cucumbers. Their cousin, who taught the brothers how to make pickles in the first place, pooh-poohed all the scientific stuff.

"Just make the pickles," Ben said he told them.

They did, and things have been going well since.

"Little by little we are narrowing it down to exactly what needs to be done," Ben said.

Most of the dills are sold to restaurants, although they do sell gallon buckets for $5 to people who walk in.

Frenchy Preston, owner of Frenchy's Saltwater Cafe and Frenchy's Shrimp and Oyster Cafe in Clearwater Beach, buys the huge dills for his restaurants.

"It goes out on all the sandwiches," he said.

The brothers adjust the recipe a little for his pickles, making them a bit spicier, Preston said.

"It's a good item," he said.