By Donna Cornelius
Journal features writer
So what did 11-year-old Augusta Jones do over the summer?
She’s hoping people will ask.
“I started a business—just the usual sixth-grade stuff,” she said.
Augusta, often called “Gussie” by family members and friends, is the founder and head chef of Ravenous Pixie Pickles. She makes two kinds of pickles, bread-and-butter and watermelon rind, and sells them via her Facebook page.
She’s also the unquestioned boss of her business—just ask her parents, Scott and Deanna Jones of Hoover.
“She jokes that she’s the CEO. But she really is. We just help,” Deanna Jones said. “When we were on vacation in Florida and Scott was at home and replied to one of her Facebook messages, it irritated her.”
Gussie, a sixth-grader at Brocks Gap Intermediate School, said her pickle-making enterprise “started in a weird way.”
She was watching an episode of “19 Kids and Counting” and saw the large family featured in the TLC reality show involved in an unusual activity, she said.
“They were making pickles on the show, and I told my dad, that’s really cool,” Gussie said. “He said, ‘Actually, I have a recipe from Nana (Scott’s mom).’ I had some friends over, and he said, ‘Do you want to make pickles?’”
Her dad’s suggestion was made pretty early in the morning, Gussie said.
“I said, ‘Dad—pickles for breakfast?’ But they were so good. He said, ‘You could start a business,’ and I was like, ‘Can we?’”
The company’s name comes from Scott Jones’ nickname for his younger daughter.
“Dad has always called me the ‘ravenous pixie’ because I’m little but I can eat so much food,” Gussie said.
Gussie and her father started experimenting with pickle recipes in mid-June. They used Scott’s mother’s recipe as a base, and Gussie added her own secret ingredients.
The Ravenous Pixie Pickles Facebook page went up July 3.
“On July 4, we had to beat a path back home to make pickles before we watched the fireworks,” Scott said.
Gussie said she gets orders for her pickles all week. Sundays are usually pickle-making days, she said, with deliveries and pickups on Mondays and Tuesdays.
“I always make the pickles fresh,” she said.
To make her Original Pickles—the bread-and-butter variety—she peels cucumbers, leaving two or three stripes of peel, and then cuts the cucumbers into circles.
“I add red onions for color and then vinegar and sugar,” she said.
The bread-and-butter pickles also have turmeric, mustard seed and salt—plus some secret ingredients, her father said.
“Then her magic pixie wand goes over the jar,” Scott said, laughing.
Gussie said she had to be convinced to add watermelon rind pickles to her product line.
“When we were a little bit into this, Dad said, ‘You know you can pickle watermelon rind.’ I told him that was gross and disgusting. Then I tasted them and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh–these are good,’” she said.
Ravenous Pixie Pickles’ first customer was Perry Turner, the father of one of Gussie’s friends.
“Mr. Perry (Turner) ordered a jar and said, ‘This is good, because I’m the only one in my family who likes pickles.’ Then he called to reorder because his three daughters—and one is a picky eater—had eaten all the pickles. I gave him a free jar. I thought, people really like these!” Gussie said.
Another customer found that where Ravenous Pixie Pickles are concerned, you don’t leave home without them.
“A lady–she’s one of my good customers–said her family was taking a road trip, and they were an hour out when they said, ‘We forgot the pickles—turn around!’” Gussie said.
Gussie, who started school Aug. 7, said she knows balancing her business and schoolwork will be challenging.
“It will be hard, but I’m going to commit to this,” she said.
She’s got plenty of family support. Scott Jones is president of Jones Is Hungry and Jones Is Thirsty, culinary media companies focused on food and wine writing, consulting and education. He’s also the former executive food editor of Southern Living.
Although Deanna Jones said she’s not fond of cooking, she’s involved in the food industry, too,. She’s executive coordinator for the Birmingham Originals, a group of locally-owned, independent restaurants in the greater Birmingham area.
The family also includes 14-year-old Tallulah, who just started the ninth grade at Hoover High School.
Tallulah “says it’s kind of weird to say, ‘My sister has a business,’” Gussie said.
Scott said his younger daughter has always loved to cook with him.
“When I’m cooking, Augusta will try anything. She’s an adventurous eater and loves to be in the kitchen,” he said.
The young picklemeister said one of her favorite parts of the venture is meeting her customers.
“We’ve actually met a lot of people through this. We’ve delivered in our own neighborhood and met people we didn’t know,” Gussie said. “I like to see who I’ve been communicating with.”
She also—as her dad learned—likes responding personally to each person who posts on her Facebook page.
Deanna Jones said she’s proud of the business skills her daughter has learned through her pickle business.
“It’s been great to see her go from thinking as an 11-year-old would to learning about expenses, giving to charity and reinvesting in your company,” Deanna said.
The pickles sell for $5 a jar, and Gussie gives part of that to a cause that’s dear to her heart.
“When we started this, my dad told me I needed to think about giving back,” she said.
Through his companies, Scott Jones supports Neverthirst, a Birmingham-based agency which provides clean water to the poor through local churches. Gussie decided to donate some of her earnings to Camp Smile-A-Mile, a camp for young cancer patients and their families.
“I felt like Neverthirst was my dad’s thing to do, and this is my thing,” Gussie said. “My friend Emily Knerr is a cancer survivor. She’s a fighter. I was in her class in fourth grade, and she talked about Camp SAM.”
The Joneses are already considering a business expansion.
“We want to try canning the pickles and see how that goes,” Scott said. “Now, they’ll last for a month or so. We want to be able to can them in the summer so we can take advantage of fresh vegetables. They’ll last about a year once they’re canned.”
Another idea is adding varieties that will appeal to sports fans.
“We’ve been talking about doing a tailgate pickle-–pickled green beans or okra–for Bloody Marys for Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss fans,” said Scott, an Ole Miss graduate.
Phase one of Gussie’s project has been selling the pickles through Facebook and making them to order, her dad said.
“Phase two would be selling them on a commercial scale. We’re absolutely open to that. She’s got a great product she came up with and a fun name,” he said.
Gussie was a guest last month on WVTM-TV’s “Daytime Alabama” show. Host Wendy Garner and a crew from the station visited the Joneses’ kitchen to see the young chef in action.
“That was really neat,” Gussie said. “I’ve always had the dream of being an actress.”
Whatever career she chooses, Gussie already has plenty of culinary experience as well as street cred in the business world .
“This has been the best experience of my life,” she said. “I’ve always liked to eat pickles, and I like bread-and-butter pickles because they’re sweet and tart. I think you need to like what you sell.”
For more information, check out the Ravenous Pixie Pickles Facebook page.