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, hell reopen in the Borough Park area, at 39th Street between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Avenues. The reason has nothing to do with a greedy landlord its simply that fewer old-timers are coming and business has dropped off, even during the Jewish holidays. Its almost like were doing everything out of our own pockets, Janin says. Asked whether hes 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 thats down. On a Thursday, I can sell three five-gallon tubs of the half sours, which aint much. For me at least. Meanwhile, the shop hasnt raised its prices, and Janin says he has no plans to expand into wholesale, though he and his mother sued the stands onetime supplier, United Pickle Products, for using the name Gusss on jars sold at Whole Foods, among other places. (Janin says he and the distributor came to an amicable agreement.) Regardless, it seems this isnt 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 wont 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.