When Westbrook resident Al Arsenault started pickling at home in early 2014, his “Sweet-Heat” pickles were a hit with friends and co-workers.

Arsenault, 28, who works at Whole Foods Market in Portland, said friends couldn’t get enough.

“Friends loved them so much, a bunch of them bought jars from me,” he said this week. “I became an official business in September 2014.”

During the last year, his business, AL’s Pals Pickles, has expanded to include five flavors, as well as relish. Soon he’ll offer pickled green beans and more flavors. Local businesses such as Rosemont Market have picked up on the popularity of the pickles, and Arsenault hopes more stores will follow. A jar of his pickles costs $8, and relish is $7. AL’s Pals are also marked by a unique and standout label on each product, part an ode to his love of heavy metal music.

Arsenault grew up in River Valley, near Rumford, and has been living in Westbrook with his fiance? for almost two years. He works in the produce department at Whole Foods. He said he started pickling as a hobby as hasn’t looked back.

For Rosemont, Arsenault said he produces roughly 2-3 cases a month, which equals about 24-36 jars. He buys his “pickling cukes” from Native Maine.

A few weeks ago, the city of Westbrook website featured AL’s Pals in its most recent video detailing Westbrook businesses. Arsenault said he has a business license with the city, with a yearly inspection.

The American Journal spoke with Arsenault this week about AL’s Pals, pickle recipes, and the momentum of his small business.

Q: What was the inspiration for starting AL’s Pals? Why pickles?

A: I was discussing pickling in general with my good friend Jeremy. He was commenting on how great it would be to be a full-time pickler, and I mentioned to him I was going to start pickling for home use. At first, as a gag, he came up with a name and a hand-drawn logo. The name AL’s Pals has stayed the same. I’ve always been a fan of pickles, I would always get excited buying a jar at the local grocery store.

Q: It’s been a little over a year since you launched AL’s Pals. How has your production changed since then?

A: Production is more efficient than when I started, I have better equipment and I used to buy spices per order. I now buy spices in bulk so orders can be processed sooner and I always use high-quality ball jars for a proper seal because my pickles are made with a canning process so they are shelf stable.

Q: How do you come up with your recipes? What makes a good pickle?

A: My recipes are mostly based on bold flavors, a pickle with lots of flavor that can possibly be the star of someone’s meal. But they are mostly based on my own preference in flavor, like spicy, tangy and a pickle that’s got a lot of zip. A good pickle is a ratio of different spices, salt and vinegar. I try to always get the ratio just right with every flavor I release.

Q: Which product is your most popular?

A: My most popular product is AL’s Bread n Buttah Pals. People can find this flavor at all Rosemont locations. My other flavors include Hot n Spicy, Sweet-Heat, Original Dill and my newest flavor, Mustard Lovers. I’m also currently working on developing a chipotle flavor and other products in mind, as well.

Q: How has word spread? Are more commercial customers on the horizon?

A: Things are good at Rosemont, I do a delivery to them on average once a month (during their busy summer season) and the staff tell me customers love them and I am gaining quite a following. There will possibly be new flavors in stock there soon. I’m currently looking into at least one more retail store and other businesses with cafeterias.

Q: The labels and artwork for your products certainly stand out. Tell me about them.

A: The label is based off the original drawing my friend Jeremy did. When I realized I needed a more refined label to market my goods, I looked to my friend Pat Jones, who is a very talented artist and MC. As soon as he sent me the rough draft I knew it was the label I wanted for my product. The label speaks to my product perfectly and also reflects my personality as well – it’s bold, colorful and rocks (me being a heavy metal musician).

Q: Do you have any long-term goals for AL’s Pals?

A: I wouldn’t say I have a long-term goal for my business at the moment, short-term is where I’m currently looking to – the next flavor, next event, next order, next retail store, things like that. I do events from time to time. My next event is represented by Yelp Maine at Thompson’s Point (Circus Conservatory of America), the event is called The Spectacular Cirque Du Yelp, I’ll be there sampling all five of my flavors.

Al Arsenault of Westbrook says the logo for his pickle business, AL’s Pals, reflects his love of heavy metal music. In the past year, AL’s Pals went from a hobby to a growing business. Courtesy photo

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