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Guss' Pickles Packing Up, Leaving Lower East Side

By DNAinfo Staff on March 8, 2010 7:15am  | Updated on March 8, 2010 10:33am

By Suzanne Ma

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER EAST SIDE — Some residents on the Lower East Side are finding themselves in a pickle as one of the neighborhood's oldest institutions is packing up and moving to Brooklyn.

Pushed out by high rent and a neighborhood now awash with posh restaurants and trendy bars, Guss' Pickles just didn't fit in anymore, said owner Patricia Fairhurst.

"It used to be predominantly Jewish down here and everyone used to shop at Guss' Pickles," Fairhurst told DNAinfo. "It's changed ... it's a newer generation. It's more of a nightlife down here and we don't fit anymore. Just don't fit."

In April, Fairhurst and her son, 32-year-old Roget Janin, will move the 90-year-old business to Borough Park, a Brooklyn neighborhood home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities outside Israel.

Patricia Fairhurst, owner of Guss' Pickles in the Lower East Side, will be moving her business to Brooklyn in April.
Patricia Fairhurst, owner of Guss' Pickles in the Lower East Side, will be moving her business to Brooklyn in April.
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DNAinfo/Suzanne Ma

With Guss' gone, the Lower East Side's once vibrant pickle district will be reduced to just one pickle peddler: "The Pickle Guys" on Essex Street.

Since Fairhurst announced she was moving last fall, customers have been stopping by, lamenting the loss.

"You're still deserting us?" asked Lower East Side resident Carol Rowbo, who bought a tub of pickles for her brother-in-law in Connecticut last week.

"Everytime I go up [he] requires that I bring pickles," she explained to DNAinfo. "They're the best pickles. We're going to miss them dearly. We plan to make the trek out to Borough Park to get our pickles from now on."

Fairhust said the new store, located at 1470 39th St., between 14th and 15th avenues, will give her more space to keep her pickle barrels indoors and off the sidewalk, safe from the city's sometimes harsh weather.

"My son's gotten frost bite several times over the years," said Fairhurst, who must dip her hands into pickle barrels brimming with cold pickle juice to fill customers' orders.

With a new location, comes a name: Ess-a-pickle, because "ess" in Yiddish means "eat." The decision to change the famed Guss' name comes from a desire to start fresh, Fairhurst said.

She had previously battled Stephen and Andrew Leibowitz, a father-son duo who claim they have the rights to the name from Isidor Guss, the Polish immigrant who originally sold pickles from a pushcart in the Lower East Side.

Fairhurst acquired Guss' name from businessman Harold Baker, who had purchased it from the Guss family after Isidor Guss' death.

But the Leibowitzes also had a long relationship with the store and bought the rights to the name. Andrew Leibowitz's company, Crossing Delancey Pickle Enterprises, opened a Guss' Pickle shop in Long Island in 2002.

Fairhurst sued him in 2006, but Andrew Leibowitz counter sued, and a 2007 settlement allows Fairhurst to use the name only at her current Orchard Street location.

"It doesn't matter what our name is," Fairhurst said. "People know who they want their pickles from, even if they have to come to Borough Park to get them."