Pickle Heaven: Local teen spreading happiness one jar at a time
BY DEBBIE PAGE
The holiday school break did not provide much time for rest for entrepreneur Carson Lester, who was laboring in his humid kitchen to finish up several batches of his signature pickle flavors.
As he finished up his 400th jar, Carson explained the inspiration for his new company, “Tasty Pickles by Carson.”
“I always loved trying Mount Olive pickles. When I got in animal science and FFA, I had to do an SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience), so I got the idea to make pickles.”
Carson’s school project soon blossomed into a booming business in October, complete with a website with online ordering and a Facebook page. “I’m thinking about going to local farmers’ markets this spring," he added.
With a business motto of “Igniting a passion for pickles,” Carson is well on his way to success, expanding his lines to include Kosher Dill, Sour Dill, Sweet Dill, Spicy Dill, Sweet Heat, and Bread and Butter spears. All types sell for $6 per quart and $4 per pint.
His website boasts many rave reviews of his pickles. Customer Risa exclaimed, “I’m in pickle heaven,” while Bill said, “I cannot get over how good this is. I'm hooked!”
Customer Christia was particularly enthusiastic: “Bought spicy then an extra spicy jar that are so delicious. I drank the juice straight from the bottle!! Love these pickles!!”
An 11th grade occupational course of study student at South Iredell High School and the I-SS Career and Technology School (CATS) in Troutman, Carson occasionally enlists his classmates to help him make pickles, which he has shipped to Florida, Maryland, California, Indiana, Utah, Nevada, and as far as South Africa.
Carson now gets his cucumbers at local stores, but in the spring he plans to build a greenhouse and start growing his own produce, giving him control of the process from seed to pickle jar.
His mom, Debra, said the business “has been the best thing to happen to him. Carson has autism and is learning delayed, so academics have always been a struggle for him. This one project has probably been his greatest learning activity to date.”
“It has helped him socially, emotionally. It has definitely helped him with math -- counting all that money,” Debra laughed. “We couldn’t be more proud or excited. We can’t believe what this school project has led to!”
Carson gave away his first 10 jars made for the project. “We never thought about selling them at first. I thought, ‘Who wants to buy a jar of pickles?’ but the answer is -- Iredell County does.”
He looks forward to growing his business after he graduates. “My future is to have a factory and corporate headquarters with a store.”
He has has taken Foods I and II at SIHS and is planning to take culinary arts classes at CATS as well as business classes in high school and at Mitchell Community College to help him prepare for his goals.
Ms. Jones at Troutman Elementary makes Carson’s business T-shirts, which he will soon sell on his website for $15, and family friend Allison Hemingfield makes his jar labels. Carson’s dad, Pete, painted the picture that became the art for the label.
Carson is grateful to everyone who has helped him get his business off the ground. “I especially want to thank my family,” he said.
His older brother Drew helps drive him to make pickle deliveries.
“I’m incredibly proud of him. I can’t say enough,” said Drew.
With pickles now a family affair, Carson and his dad rang in the new year with a large inflatable pickle drop from a tree in the front yard, hoping to bring in lots of good fortune in the coming years for “Tasty Pickles by Carson.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Visit Carson’s website at https://tastypicklesbycarson.com or visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/carson.lester.58910. He can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.