This is Nominee Spotlights, a series in which the Best of Western Washington chats with local business owners to get the inside scoop on everything good.
Whether you are a vegetarian or a devout carnivore, everyone loves a good sandwich. 6 years ago, the residents of the South End of Whidbey Island didn't have a sandwich shop of their own. Enter Pickles Deli and owner Kim Bailey. After years in the catering business, Kim opened Pickles Deli with an eye towards bringing a gourmet sandwich shop to the residents of Whidbey Island — think organic bread, local produce, fresh salads. We sat down with Kim to talk pickles and get some insights into her sandwich business.
What's the story behind the name? The inspiration for the name Pickles came from my childhood. One of my fondest memories is literally running with my two younger sisters to the local grocer to get our after school snack. A huge crunchy crisp pickle right out of the barrel.
How did you get started in the restaurant business? I went to Johnson & Wales University (Providence, RI) and have an AS in Hotel Restaurant Management and a BA in Hospitality Management. I started working at catering companies around Everett and Seattle and then ended up getting offered a job as Catering Director and had the amazing opportunity to be part of the opening of The Everett Events Center (Comcast Arena now). I worked at the center for three years and decided I had done what I needed to do there and it was time for me to work for myself to see if I could really be a business owner.
How would you describe the vibe at Pickles? The vibe here is insanely happy. It is very upbeat positive, clean and a truly inviting energy. We have fun music playing (a little louder than most places) and Penelope (the catholic school girl made of paper mache) is flying above the sandwich making area on her big dill Pickle. She is our mascot. We know a lot of the locals by name. We are fortunate to live on a small island so we get to know everyone's name and if we don't know them you bet we will learn who they are. That is our job!
What's the busiest time of week? Most of our sales come from locals at lunch and dinner time. But we are lucky to only be three minutes from the Clinton Mukilteo Ferry terminal so we are a tourist attraction on the weekends when people are just arriving or leaving the island.
Where do guests come from? Lots of local islanders & lots from Seattle coming to the island for the weekend. Word has been traveling fast so we have been getting a ton of people specifically coming to the deli for Gluten Free items, ice cream and smoothies. They have read reviews from Yelp so they decide to stop by.
What's your favorite way to stay in touch with customers? We see a variety of customers wherever we go around town. That's why I tell my employees to always be on their best behavior. It's funny, when I am out and see specific people they typically will come to the restaurant the next day. It's like my face reminds them to come in.
What is your most popular dish right now? It's either the Spicy Italian Grinder or the Friday After Thanksgiving (turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo on potato bread).
What about you - what do you order? I love our veggie patch wrap. It is a garlic herb wrap made in Salem (Oregon) smothered with garlic hummus and cucumber yogurt sauce - sprinkled with feta, cucumbers, mixed greens, carrots, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, sprouts , roasted red peppers, and olives. I hold the olives - not a big fan at all. Then we grill it on the panini press. YUMMMY I am on a veggie kick.
Where else do you like to eat around town? On the island I like Village Pizzeria, Prima Bistro, Gordon's On Blueberry Hill. Over on the mainland, I like checking out happy hours at different locations. Honestly I don't think I have been to the same restaurant twice, except for El Chupacabra and Toulouse Petit. Tilth is also unreal.