The Lo-Down breaks the sad news that after more than 85 years, Guss’ Pickles is leaving the Lower East Side. We called Roger Janin, who has operated the stand along with his mother, Pat Fairhurst, since 2004, and he confirmed that in about four months, he’ll reopen in the Borough Park area, at 39th Street between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Avenues. The reason has nothing to do with a greedy landlord — it’s simply that fewer old-timers are coming and business has dropped off, even during the Jewish holidays. “It’s almost like we’re doing everything out of our own pockets,” Janin says. Asked whether he’s actually operating at a loss or merely a slim profit, he says the profit is “very, very slim.”
When he appeared in our Ask a Waiter column in 2007, Janin told us he sold maybe a third of a 500-pound barrel of pickles on Thursdays and Fridays. He says that’s down. “On a Thursday, I can sell three five-gallon tubs of the half sours, which ain’t much. For me at least.” Meanwhile, the shop hasn’t raised its prices, and Janin says he has no plans to expand into wholesale, though he and his mother sued the stand’s onetime supplier, United Pickle Products, for using the name Guss’s on jars sold at Whole Foods, among other places. (Janin says he and the distributor came to an amicable agreement.) Regardless, it seems this isn’t just about profit margin: Janin is looking forward to operating in an indoor space, since he often has to close the current shop due to the strains of moving his barrels in and out. And he won’t miss the heat and car exhaust.
In an interesting twist, the lease may be taken over by a kimchi maker. Score one for the Pickle Guys.