A marketing whiz with a fondness for farm-girl chic, a few years ago Erin Kergen took a break from her Calgary-based branding and marketing jobs to raise a “free-range baby” on a farm near a small community between Calgary and Banff. As it happened, it gave her time to focus on her homemade food and bath products, the latter made “without dyes or chemicals — recipes that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would have made.”
Friends, for whom she was making some of the stuff, suggested she take over a store and sell them, which led Kergen to team up with a fellow new mum to launch Pickle & Myrrh. With the tagline Goodies and Gifts, the pair began selling products at the neighbourhood general store and amassed a cult following from as far away as Calgary.
In November 2017, Kergen, her husband, and daughter, moved to Merrickville to be closer to her extended eastern Ontario family; by January she was in talks with Mrs. McGarrigle’s founder Janet Campbell to showcase her food and bath products; in April she launched a pop-up shop that takes over the full second floor of Mrs. McGarrigle’s.
City Bites Insider caught up with Kergen the week her pop-up shop opened for business.
“I had been tagging Merrickville on my Instagram account, knowing that we were moving here. The Village Bean Coffee House found me and contacted me before we even moved to town and said they would love to carry my caramels.
“The big Christmas in Merrickville event happened just a couple of weeks after we moved in [December 2017]. I decided to get a table and see how it went. A few hours later, I’d sold 1,000 bags of sea salt caramels. It was unreal! I thought, ‘There must be a deficit of homemade caramel in this region!’
“I contacted Janet [Campbell] of Mrs. McGarrigle’s in January and everything came together from there. The pop-up shop, which launched in April, takes over the second floor of the store. Right now we’re scheduled to be in there until June 30.”
Keeping It Small
“We work out of the back kitchen in the Mrs. McGarrigle’s shop — every Thursday I cook up a huge batch of caramels in a 40-gallon pot. That translates into about 200 bags. It smells like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in here!
“I want to keep my business small so I can control the quality. I make everything I sell. That’s true for my caramels and baked goods, as well as my bath products.”
The Product Range
“Caramels are big, but I also make other baked goods and cooking products [check out the dried fruit sprinkles and bourbon vanilla extract].
“Lemongrass linen spray is really popular. I also make lavender and sweet orange — I call it Febreze without the chemicals. The lemongrass is amazing for shoes and yoga mats. Sweet orange is actually a mood and libido booster so I recommend it to people who have seasonal affective disorder.
“I make a lot of bath salts and soaps. I also carry some things made by my friends. Oh Sew Rachel is an amazing line from a good friend of mine. I saw her hand-painted kitchen towels and I was, like, ‘Why are you making this secretly for just friends and family when you can share it with the world?’ She also makes pillows, bibs, napkins.”
“I want my pop-up to have the feel of a general store. I wanted to make sure that the space was open and uncrowded, with nice touches — like wooden display shelves and the suspended wood ladder with dried flowers hanging from it that my husband’s friend made.”
May 5 — During Merrickville’s annual town-wide garage sale, Kergen plans to create a garden-party atmosphere in her yard on St. John Street, setting up a large display of her products and inviting crafty friends to show off their goods.
May 11 — On the Friday before Mother’s Day, plans are in the works for an afternoon and evening “micro-market” in the alley beside Mrs. McGarrigle’s. Kergen pictures fairy lights and tables packed with gifts for mum. “I want to create a little pop-up market like you might come across in a town in Europe,” she says.