How this Kanien'kehá:ka couple is relishing in a 'dill-icious' pickle venture

·2 min read
Austin Lazare and Kahente McGregor in their new workshop and storefront in Kahnawake, south of Montreal. (Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC - image credit)
Austin Lazare and Kahente McGregor in their new workshop and storefront in Kahnawake, south of Montreal. (Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC - image credit)

There are few vegetables that Austin Lazare hasn't tried to pickle yet.

There's been beans, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, cauliflower … and of course cucumbers.

"I pickled grapes, even. It was actually kind of a hit," said Lazare, the owner and founder of Rowy's Preservation Nation in Kahnawake, south of Montreal.

The budding Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) entrepreneur started pickling in 2018 as a hobby, making small batches of spicy pickled beans.

He'd spend weekends canning and approached a local business about selling some jars. The first case sold out within half an hour.

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC
Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC

Now, he's turned Rowy's — named after his four-year-old son — into a full-time business producing an average of 500 jars a day. He's made everything from salsas to a wide variety of pickled vegetables, and even holds monthly fried pickle sales.

"I think people right now are really gearing towards homemade things and locally made things, so I really found a good market for it," he said.

Two dozen businesses in the community carry his products, and he's working on improving packaging and label requirements according to Quebec regulations and certifications to expand beyond Kahnawake.

"I love being from Kahnawake," said Lazare.

"My biggest goal is to get on the shelves of IGA, Costco, or Metro …. I want to be the first food product from Kahnawake to make it onto the shelves of a real retail chain."

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC
Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC

The small business has grown significantly over the pandemic. On Dec. 3, he opened his own storefront and workshop. It's also home to the Butter End Cakery, his girlfriend Kahente McGregor's cake business.

McGregor said she is excited to share a larger kitchen and workspace, and their family is also soon to expand.

"I was baking out of my little kitchen. I am very excited to get in here and start baking," she said.

"I'm so excited. Our families are coming together, this new little baby. It means a lot."

Family is an important part of their businesses. Lazare's grandfather is a big supporter, having crafted wooden crates for gift packaging for Rowy's. All three of Lazare and McGregor's children also help out in the kitchen.

"All three enjoy pickling with Austin more than baking with me … sadly," she laughed.

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC
Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC

While cakes and pickles might not conventionally go together, the two are also excited to collaborate. McGregor said she won't be shying away from experimenting with pickle-flavoured cakes.

They've already concocted candied pickles — like taffy apples, minus the apple — that were a hit with customers.

"I don't know if it's just me being pregnant but those are amazing," said McGregor.

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