August 9, 2022
Dylan Randolph had a spicy childhood, practically weaned on his mother’s famous hot pickled peppers, a recipe that included tomatoes and peppers grown fresh in her garden. Even as a kid, Randolph knew her peppers, and the love she put into each jar, was magical. Now customers around the world are able to savor her recipes. After a long career as a bartender, Randolph started Bonnie B’s Peppers six years ago as part of his transition retirement plan, named for his mother who started it all.
“Bonnie B’s Peppers was born to show the world our love and appreciation of our amazing mother and matriarch of the family,” Randolph states on Bonnie B’s website. “A true example of turning lemons into lemonade, love family above all else, and hard work does return reward. ...We felt it was time to let the world taste and enjoy the peppers our family has been growing, canning, and eating for years.”
After working the Seattle farmer’s market circuit for five years, Randolph took his business to the next level in 2019, when a space opened up at Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market.
“When I first entered Pike Place I had no clue how the world would change over the next few months. I took a space that was a closet and turned it into a production facility,” he said.
When he’s not busy running the Pike Place operation, Randolph and his three full-time and one part-time employee sell peppers at the circuit of local farmers markets like Ballard and Redmond. He also sources Bonnie B’s directly to restaurants, packing the peppers into two-gallon containers.
Randolph said he counts on the Seattle cruise season to bring tourists to the market and Seattle area, where customers are drawn to the unique flavors of Bonnie B’s and Randolph’s welcoming personality.
“We were really counting on that influx of customers when COVID happened,” he said. “It was challenging to figure out how to capture that business at Pike Place without the cruise industry.”
Randolph and other Pike Place Market tenants pivoted to partner with Savor Seattle on their Market Food Boxes, a subscription service of curated eats and treats from the Pike Place Market and Seattle businesses. And operating an online storefront.
He added hot food to his farmers market offerings, selling a cheese bread spread, hot dogs, German pretzels, and Bloody Mary mix that incorporate his sweet and spicy product line.
As vaccinations became readily available, Seattle launched a shorter 2021 cruise season in July with rigorous safety protocols in place. The abbreviated cruise season launched 83 scheduled voyages, each bringing an estimated $4.2 million to the local economy. A typical cruise season before COVID-19 would see more than 200 cruise departures from Seattle.
Randolph said the uptick in business since the reopening has been palpable. During the first six weeks of Seattle’s cruise season, Randolph estimated that business was up six times what it was a year ago.
“It’s been a perfect storm having a front-line booth at the market with cruise ships coming back,” he said. “Resiliency and pivoting have been key for me. I worked every day since COVID was announced. Customers love our product and that is what has kept me going. I am moving toward my 10-year goal when I started the business and it’s surreal to think I may actually get where I had hoped.”
Deep in the harvest season, Randolph is currently processing 400 to 500 pounds of peppers a week and is starting to pick up corporate accounts where Bonnie B’s products are incorporated in gift baskets.
Bonnie B’s offers three unique styles of pickled peppers: Original Green, which consists of Organic Hungarian wax peppers with oil/vinegar, organic garlic, and dried herbs; Red Saucie, made from organic Hungarian wax peppers cooked in a sweet and tangy sauce; and Momma’s Mustard Relish, organic Hungarian wax peppers pureed with local Washington state honey, vinegar, and mustard.
Randolph has also developed more sweet and spicy products — including Sweet Pickled Habaneros, Sour and Spicy Pickles, and Sweet and Spicy Pickles — that have quickly become customer favorites.
Momma’s Mustard Relish is one of his top sellers and is a variation of his mother’s original recipe.
“My mom came to me years ago and wanted me to try a new mustard recipe. But it was too sweet for me.”
Randolph decided to tweak the recipe for his taste. He pureed the peppers and added the spice from the seeds to give it a kick. The result was a little hotter than the typical product, but it was a hit.
The secret to Randolph’s success is listening to his customers. The sweet pickled habaneros and sour and spicy pickles are a result of customer requests and feedback.
To cater to cruise customers traveling by plane, he developed a sampler pack with three-ounce jars that are Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved, making the security-screening process a snap.
Cruise passengers and other tourists love the product for its local story, family history, and that it's made in the iconic market.
“They love the fact that we make it right there,” he said. “At Pike Place we also capitalize on the smell factor. People tell me they smelled the sweet mustardy smell on the street and followed the smell right to us.”
In the first six months of his business, he made three different styles of peppers and since then he has increased his product line to eight products. From August to October 2020, he went through 7,000 pounds of Hungarian wax peppers in his production process.
Randolph scours farmers markets to connect with local growers who can provide the fresh peppers. Today he works almost exclusively with Alvarez Organic Farms in Mabton, Washington, a well-established family owned farm that has been in the agriculture business for over 30 years.
Randolph’s sweet peppers are about as fresh as they can get — from farm to jar in less than 24 hours with a crunchy fresh explosion to awaken the taste buds of customers around the world.
August 9, 2022
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