Millie Krause, who runs Elman’s, with receptionist Bonita Bouchard. (photo from Elman’s)
They started making horseradish 80 years ago and haven’t stopped. Elman’s Food Products is still making horseradish in small batches and, over the years, they have added new pickled products to the mix.
Today, Elman’s is run by Millie Krause, widow of the founder’s son, Manny Finkleman, who passed away in 2004. The company is gradually increasing its reach west from Winnipeg, led by Millie Krause’s daughter, Payton.
Six years ago, Payton Krause moved to Vancouver to be closer to friends and expand the family business, in which she first started working in the late 1980s. By then, the family had moved the company out of the garage and into its current-day location on Jarvis Avenue in Winnipeg’s North End.
“At that time, Payton, my daughter, was working here,” Millie Krause told the Independent. “And that was good, because she could keep an eye on things while I was running back and forth to hospitals, and taking Manny back and forth to this and that.”
In 2004, Manny Krause passed away. Since then, the brunt of the management has been in his wife’s hands.
“It was a really big learning curve for me, because my background was in sales. It took awhile,” she said. “Everybody wanted the same deals that Manny used to give and they didn’t really know who I was … but we survived.
“I always say that, if you don’t know something, find out. Just ask. If we look a little stupid or something down the road, who cares? Just get it done. That’s really the attitude we took it with. Now, what Manny said to me before he passed away … was that I should run it [Elman’s] for a couple of years, with Payton’s and everyone’s help … and then, sell it. So, 15 years later, I’m still here. The thing is, back then, when Manny was running the business, he ran it, if I might say, by the seat of his pants. He dealt with every problem that came up at the time, but he didn’t really remember what he did the next time, so it was like constant chaos.”
She and her daughter have tried “to reformulate the company and brand it – brand it into something that maybe wasn’t there at the time,” she said.
They position their products in the specialty food section, staying away from big retailers like Walmart and Giant Tiger. They sell the product by promoting the story behind it – making sure people know they’re a small, local family business with a long history in the city.
“I think we’ve succeeded in doing that,” said Krause, saying the process has “been a little slow.”
“Before Manny passed away,” she explained, “we were shipping from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, and then west, but in very small ways. Then, Payton wanted to move out there, as apparently she needs mountains and water around her, and she wanted to open it up further. Actually, she’s done that.”
Expansion means winning over new clients, and that is exactly what her daughter is achieving in Vancouver.
“In fact, Payton had to pass a taste test,” said Krause. “Some of the wannabe customers she went to call on cut up 10 slices of pickles and said, ‘OK, now, which one is yours?’ And, I think she thought, ‘Sheesh! What if I get this wrong?’ But, she got it right.”
One breakthrough is that Elman’s pickles are included in all B.C. Ferries’ burgers. “They put the pickle on the top of the bun,” said Krause.
As another example, she said Elman’s are also used by Fairmont Hotels in Vancouver.
“The goal is to obviously get more business,” she said. “Up until this point, we didn’t have a lot of boots on the ground. We don’t have salespeople. The only ‘salespeople’ we have is Payton in the Vancouver area, but she has managed to do quite well. That is her goal – to get as much business as we can. It will hopefully get to a point that we can get enough business to be busy continually.”
Krause is hoping to get in with another large food service restaurant, which would allow Elman’s not only to be busier but to have the working capital to keep operations going. According to its website, the company currently has about 10 regular staff and casual employees.
Elman’s products carry a kosher certification from OU Kosher. For more information, visit elmans.ca.
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.