A friend stopped by my studio and said "You should meet the pickle guy." That's how I first heard we had a great food manufacturer in our own backyard.
In 1963 Kurt Kruegermann escaped communist East Germany and eventually bought a house in Elysian Valley--better known as Frogtown. In the back of the house he put up a building for his pickling business. He's expanded to four adjoining lots since, but the original building is still used today. From 1963 to 1974 he and his wife Helga raised two sons, Greg and Carl, there. The house is long gone, but the memories of raising a young family remain.
Kurt was warned by the realtor that "this was a dangerous neighborhood." The kids recall mostly keeping to themselves but taking full advantage of a childhood along the Los Angeles River. Carl and Greg rode bikes along the river and recall some thorny bushes that grew along the path that caused too many flat tires. The Dolly Madison plant as well as 4S bakeries (later Bimbo's) had day-old stores where the kids would stock up on snack cakes.
Where the Dolly Madison loading dock now sits were homes. One of the neighborhood kids ran a library out of the garage. Carl and Greg would check books out. The whole family vividly recalls the frogs, now extinct, that gave the neighborhood it's name. In the springtime and early summer, the frogs covered neighborhood streets and lawns. Much like today, there was no shortage of local color. The Pink Lady lived at the corner of Gilroy and Ripple streets. She mostly dressed in pink and had three cars of the same color.
The whole family works at the plant today. The Kruegermanns have hired generations of Frogtown residents full time and for summer jobs over the years. Overall, they see distinct improvements in Elysian Valley since they first moved there. Going on its fifth decade, they are a a locally-owned and run business building a legacy.