415 South Blacks Corners Road
Frank Vlasic moved to America in 1912 to build a better life for his family. After saving every dime from his $2 a day car foundry job, Frank established a creamery business in Detroit. He eventually turned it over to his son, Joe.
Joe expanded the family milk and cheese business into selling Polish pickles spiced with garlic and dill. During WWII, his supply of pickles dried up so Joe started testing a new idea: selling Polish pickles in glass jars. Joe couldn’t keep up with the demand and the Vlasic Pickle brand was born.
Joe’s son, Bob, joined the company after the war and became General Manager of the Vlasic operation which still included the creamery. Its first plant was built in Imlay City, MI.
Twenty-eight new, large tanks were installed for the making of sauerkraut and contracts were made with farmers for cabbage acreage. In addition, Vlasic contracted with farmers for about 500 acres of cucumbers which supplied receiving stations of the company located at Kingston, Deford and Hemans, in addition to Imlay City. The cucumbers were all processed at the Imlay City plant. In 1945 Patzer had an 80 by 120 foot building for receiving cucumbers, and was constructing another of the same size. In 1946 they constructed an additional building 80 by 300 feet to be used exclusively for packaging of product. They were employing 25 employees, with plans to add more.
The pickle empire really began in Imlay City when Joseph Vlasic bought the Patzer Food Products Company in 1957 and two years later created Vlasic Foods.
Joseph Vlasic retired in the 1960’s and his son, Bob, took over direction of the company, which was sold to the Campbell Soup Company in 1978 for $33 million.
The plant has expanded to 10 times from its original size. The Imlay City facility encompasses more than 457,000 square feet and spans 190 acres. The company employs 850 people during its peak season.
In 2017 the company “America’s #1 Pickle” and marked its 75th year. Vlasic pickles are now distributed throughout the United States and Canada, as are a variety of other products offered under the brand. The Vlasic brand currently (2019) is owned by Conagra Brands.
In 1933, per capita pickle consumption was 2.09 pounds. By 1974, consumption grew to 8 pounds. Joe and Bob became so successful at pickles that they dropped the milk and cheese business entirely.
In 1974, a wisecracking Vlasic Stork flew out of American television screens with the message that crunchy “Vlasic is the best tasting pickle I ever heard!”
Thank you to the Vlasic website for supplying portions of this article.