Mt. Olive Pickles History
When entrepreneurship is usually discussed, the story is usually that of an individual who had a great idea and turned that idea into a successful business. Often we forget that behind every great idea is an even greater team of individuals who helped make that idea a reality. From the ideas of Shirkey Baddour to the community involvement lead by I.F Witherington, Mt. Olive was a company created and led by a team of truly amazing people dedicated to giving back to their employees and the community.
Seeing Opportunity When Others Saw Rotten Cucumbers
It can be said that entrepreneurs can see opportunity where others cannot, and the largest pickle company in the country takes that statement to heart. Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Inc. got its start when Lebanese immigrant, Shikrey Baddour, spotted a business opportunity in the wasted cucumber crops near Mount Olive, North Carolina.
Years before this discovery in 1894, Baddour, along with hundreds of thousands of other Lebanese citizens, left his home in search for a better life, far from the political upheaval and poor economic conditions of his homeland. When he came across these cucumber crops in 1902, Baddour had already been running his own shirt factory in Goldsboro for nine years. With his entrepreneurial spirit, he knew that he could not ignore the potential he saw in the discarded crops.
Baddour believed that not only could the crops turn a profit but they would create a product for the community to enjoy as well. He began advertising for help from someone in the pickle business and formed a partnership with George H. Moore. Together they began their small pickling operation in Mount Olive in 1924. By the Summer of 1925 the fledgling operation started by Baddour and George Moore in Mount Olive, NC was established, but struggling.
Mt. Olive’s Strong Roots in Community Involvement
It was during this time in 1925 that the fledgling company caught the attention of I.F. Witherington, a young insurance broker who lived in Mt. Olive with his wife Rubineal and their two children. Witherington was just 35 at the time, but was an active member of the Mount Olive Presbyterian Church and charter member of the Rotary Club of Mount Olive and knew the power of community service in bringing individuals together to meet a common goal.
He began networking with other business people about establishing a pickling operation as a way to expand the local economy. With the help of 37 shareholders and $19,500 in capital, Mt. Olive Pickle Company was officially organized on January 2nd, 1926.
A Successful Business Inspired by a Vision for a Better Community
A few years after the company began, Baddour made the decision to leave and sell his stock so he could buy a home in Goldsboro, where his family enjoyed accomplishments in the arts, business, law and politics. George Moore also left the company and decided to move west to California in 1933. I.F. Witherington, successfully managed the company from 1928 until his death in 1955. During his 30 years of leadership, Witherington’s business decisions reflected the original shareholders vision to improve their local community.
One of Mt. Olive Pickle’s early feats includes being one of the first companies to offer profit sharing plans to employees. During the Great Depression and years afterwards, employees had very little, if any, savings and in times of distress had nothing to fall back on. Witherington was a compassionate man and would allow employees to borrow money from him and/or the company; however, he believed that establishing the profit sharing program would help employees save money for emergencies and retirement in the future.
Mt. Olive Continues its Founders’ Legacy of Giving Back to the Community
Mt. Olive Pickle Company was also one of the first to begin an employee community fund to support local organizations. Currently, Mt. Olive continues this legacy of giving back to the community by participating in annual community traditions such as the local canned food drive run by Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina as well as hosting the New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop and N.C. Pickle Festival. The N.C. Pickle Festival is an annual pickle-filled celebration described as “a mix of street fair, community festival and family reunion.” It supplies the community with tons of fun pickle-related activities, food, art and merchandise to encourage residents to come together, mingle and celebrate the history of Mt. Olive; plus, all proceeds from the event are donated to local charities
Since Mt. Olive Pickle Company was established in 1926, the company’s facilities have grown to include 150 acres of land, 1 million square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space and the storage capacity for over 40 million pounds of cucumbers. It has become the largest independent pickling company in the country and is nationally recognized as the #1 pickle brand in the U.S.