On October 15th, the legendary Fickle Pickle of the Hill Country will celebrate its 38th Anniversary. One of the longest running businesses in Boerne, Fickle Pickles- housed inside Texas Carousel Antiques, has become a fixture on the Hill Country Mile. Owner Lisa Obriotti and husband Jake couldn’t be prouder to continue Lisa’s mother, Billie Shaw’s legacy.
In 1980, Billie Shaw moved to Pipe Creek from San Antonio and opened an antique store in Boerne. In order to bring customers into the store, Billie began sampling out her homemade pickles. One day she called Lisa and said, “I think I’m going to start selling my pickles in the store but I need a name.” Lisa’s immediate reply? “Fickle Pickles!”
What began as just an idea to generate more traffic into her store quickly turned into the biggest selling item. As orders for Fickle Pickles began coming in, Billie was amazed and shared her excitement with Lisa (who still lived in San Antonio) just about every day. Lisa remembers a call from her mom one day, “You wouldn’t believe how much everyone likes my pickles! A man just ordered 12 jars of my pickles! That’s a case!”
Billie Shaw, who was fondly referred to as “The Pickle Lady,” began jarring these savory, crunchy gems and quickly made a big name for her family recipe. Still using one single and successful family recipe, Fickle Pickles and “The Pickle Lady’s Daughter” as Lisa is now known, has been featured in Southern Living, Texas Monthly and has even graced the stage at a live episode of The Martha Stewart Show.
In 2001, Billie was ready to hand the reigns of the business over to her only daughter. Lisa said, “When I first took over, it was very difficult because things were not measured. She just did it and I had to literally watch her to learn how she made them!” Lisa still uses the same recipe as her mom, and a staff of 6 cut and can by hand the way her mom did 38 years ago. “Only my husband and I know what goes into our product. We are very protective of what we make because it is ours.”
Lisa and Jake took the business and began marketing to expand the reach of the business. Lisa began mailing lists and advertisements and word began to spread even more. The launch of an online store increased business exponentially. Lisa is proud to say, “We have been very fortunate, we have never had a year where we equaled the year before, we have always had an increase!” Pickles have been shipped all over the world, including Finland, England, Iraq, and Australia and have become a must have Christmas gift for many families.
Lisa feels the biggest key to the success to the company (other than the amazing pickles, of course!) is their customer service. “We just want to pay homage to her hard, hard work. We want to make her proud and keep giving that old-fashioned customer service. We go the extra mile and make sure our customers feel at home. We always make it right and strive to make our customers happy and satisfied.” Also keeping the product in their own stores rather than wholesale them has been key. “Having control over the product and knowing how it is represented and sampled is so very important. I need to know that our pickles are being presented the way we believe they should be.”
Looking to the future, Lisa’s goal is to continue to grow the company while still keeping the product handmade. “We’ve looked at different ways to produce the pickles in larger batches but no matter what we’ve seen, we know it just won’t work the same. It has to be canned by hand and made in small batches, otherwise it won’t taste the same. As long as we can continue to produce the product the way we want and have enough on hand, we want to keep expanding.” They have stores in Gruene, Bandera, and of course the flagship store in Boerne, with hopes to open one in Austin soon.
There is no doubt that Lisa’s passion to continue her mom’s legacy is key to Fickle Pickle’s success. The pickles are delicious with a combination of sweet, crunchy, and spicy are definitely the beginning to the lasting impression this company makes. However, it is Lisa and the staff that have people coming back. “Once your focus is on your customer, everything falls into place. If you ever lose track of your customers then you will lose track of your business.”
Lisa and Jake Obriotti select their customer service representatives with this in mind and there is no doubt that it makes a difference. Each store as well as the kitchen is staffed with people that are just as passionate about their pickles as they are, and it is obvious the moment you walk in the door. With all of the changes that Boerne has gone through over the years, it is nice to know that small town customer service and a delicious handmade product has the staying power.
Stop by any one of their stores on October 15th to wish them a Happy 38th Anniversary and to sample the best pickle you’ll ever have. Pick up a marinade excellent for pork, chicken, or shrimp and few jars of Original and Extra Spicy. You won’t regret it!