Growing Lake Zurich pickle company pursuing big expansion to meet current and future demand
You likely haven't heard of NorthStar Pickle Company but may have tasted its products without knowing they were produced in Lake Zurich.
However, many customers are well aware of the family owned and operated business. So many, in fact, the company is planning a huge expansion.
"We've had a lot of people approach us to make things for them over the last 18 months, but because of capacity limitations we've put that at arm's length until the new facility is ready," co-owner Jeff Oziemkowski said.
The company ships and processes about 300,000 pounds of pickle products a week and can deflect potential customers only for so long, Oziemkowski said.
"We can't get into the new place soon enough," he added.
The company will build a 60,000- to 80,000-square-foot processing and distribution facility -- about five times its current size -- nearby in an undeveloped area of the Lake Zurich Industrial Park.
The decision was cemented with the recent approval of a village rebate of up to $1.4 million in future property taxes over 22 years for costs associated with the $15.2 million project.
"They've been here since 2014 and we want to have them here for a lot longer than that," said Kyle Kordell, assistant to the village manager.
NorthStar is among about 12,000 small firms behind the big guys selling under names including Vlasic and Claussen, Oziemkowski said.
NorthStar provides whole pickles, spears, chips, relish and pickled green tomatoes to local, regional and national restaurant groups, as well as grocery chains, theme parks and other food manufacturers.
"We're in 65 different countries throughout the world," Oziemkowski said.
Chances are you've tasted one or more of the products that emerge fresh daily from its facility on Donata Court. But you wouldn't have known. Nearly all its customers are private-label brands, meaning the NorthStar name doesn't appear on the products. And the identities of the companies themselves are secret and covered by nondisclosure agreements.
An exception is Superdawg, which uses NorthStar-made relish, green tomatoes and pickles at its locations in Chicago and Wheeling. Superdawg was NorthStar's first customer and does not have an NDA, Oziemkowski explained.
The company has grown since co-workers turned entrepreneurs Oziemkowski and Steve Spector opened in Mundelein in 2008.
The partners say they're passionate about pickles and have a combined 60 years in manufacturing, sales and distribution of pickles and pickle-related products.
About 40,000 pounds of pickling cucumbers arrive daily.
All retail orders are packed by hand at about 12-15 containers per minute. That will increase tenfold at the new facility and allow the company to fill different types of orders simultaneously.
"NorthStar Pickle is going to create a lot of new value in the industrial park, raising the property values in ways that will eventually result in a large increase in tax revenues for Lake Zurich schools, the library, and local municipal services we all depend on," Kordell said.