Mo Niklz – The Story of How an Indie Hip-Hop DJ Became a Pickle Magnate
DJ Mo Niklz is used to getting a few strange looks when he arrives at a venue. How many other DJs do you know of that bring a large supply of homemade pickles to every gig?
“It’s often interesting getting into a show,” the Connecticut-based DJ says with a laugh, “(I’ll be) loading in, and security is – ‘Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, what’s going on here?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, I make pickles.’ They’re worried I’m bringing in jars of alcohol. They’re like, ‘Pickles?!?! Alright. Whatever.’”
The reactions Mo has received from those who sample the pickles – which are appropriately named Mo Piklz – have been significantly more enthusiastic. So enthusiastic, in fact, that he’s turned what was initially a bit of an inside joke into a full blown business.
It all started with a Facebook post
Over his two decades of DJing, Mo Niklz has heard every possible play on his name. “People would always be like oh, Mo Niklz, Mo Tiklz, Mo Ciclz, Mo Piklz.” It was that last play that would come up when he made a post on Facebook asking everyone a question about merch.
The year was 2017, and Mo was on tour with indie hop-hop artist Billy Woods. “I put on on Facebook, ‘Hey, what’s a different merch idea,’ and I was thinking maybe like socks, or a beer koozie, and one of my old roommates was like, ‘Mo Piklz!’”
What could have ended up a comment lost in a sea of replies gained traction when another friend not only seconded the idea, but offered to help make it happen.
“My friend Crystal, who lives in Minneapolis, she said, ‘If you promise to sell them at your shows, I will make you pickles to sell at your shows.’ I was just like, I don’t have a reason to say no to this. We were going through Minneapolis anyways.”
The idea came to fruition, and went from being a silly Facebook comment, to an immediate merch table hit.
“People were going up to the mech table, and just being like, ‘Pickles! Oh my God! I LOVE pickles!’ It was like Wayne’s World, where it’s like, ‘Yeah, pickles are pretty cool.’ ‘No, you don’t know man, I loooove pickles.’”
Going all in
Seeing the reaction Crystal’s pickles received was eye opening for Mo, and the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of always having a supply of Mo Piklz for shows.
“I got home (from tour), and was like alright, I guess there’s a serious pickle crowd that I didn’t know anything about.”
He admits, “I wasn’t even really into pickles at the time, because the only time you get pickles it’s like a half-assed thing you get on the side of a sandwich, or a burger, and you’re just kind of like alright, well I finished my burger, but I’m still kind of hungry, I might as well just eat this thing.”
With quality in mind, he thought, “You know what, I’ll bet, like anything, if you just put a little love, and care into it, you could actually make something that people would enjoy.”
Mo Piklz was born, but a lot of work needed to be done … like learning everything from scratch (DJ pun fully intended).
An education in more than just pickles
Mo started spending his time figuring out different recipes, initially focusing on a spicy pickle, noting that selling pickles at shows means selling them to people who are drinking, and people who are drinking tend to only taste spicy foods.
The more people enjoyed the pickles, the more Mo enjoyed making them. Finally, he says, “In 2020 I was like – let me take this seriously.”
In order to do this, Mo had to figure out which permits, and certifications he needed to have to be legally allowed to create, and sell food products on a bigger scale.
“It’s kind of been a trial by fire thing for me,” he says, noting, “One of the biggest things is figuring out who to ask questions, because these are things you can’t just ask people.”
Eventually he learned that, among other things, he needed a Better Process Control School certification. “There’s no in-between,” he says, “so it’s the same thing if I were to sell pickles just that I physically made, hand to hand, as if I were to run a factory that was making pickles.”
With all the certifications in hand, Mo was ready to take his pickles on the road, and when venues reopened, that’s exactly what he did.
We’ve sprung a leak
The first time Mo took his pickles on tour with him he learned a lesson the hard way. Not realizing he had to burp the containers, he says, “The cans kept on inevitably exploding in the car. Luckily it was just my clothing that got damaged, because I would’ve been such a jackass if it had ruined vinyl, or someone else’s clothing. So it’s like, ‘Alright, I guess I’m gonna go hit up a laundromat right now guys.’”
Once sealed correctly, touring continued, as Mo DJs for a number of big name artists in the indie hop-hop world. All of this touring led to learning about how he can bring his pickles over the Canadian border.
“I took a tour with Ceschi to Canada,” he remembers, “and was talking to Brzowski, and was like, ‘I heard they buy a lot of merch there, it’s too bad I can’t bring my pickles.’ Brzo was like, ‘I’m pretty sure you can. Look it up.’”
Mo looked it up, and discovered he could bring up 15 jars of preserves per person.
“I stayed up that night making 30 jars of pickles. At the border they were like, ‘Do you have anything in the car?’ We were like, ‘We just got some merch. I got some pickles.’ They were just like, ‘Pickles?!?! What?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, some preserves.’ ‘Oh yeah, sure, bring it on over.’ They’re real serious about their preserves in Canada.”
Mo will be hitting the road again in October with Billy Woods, the man whose 2017 tour was where the Mo Piklz idea started.
Growing the business
In addition to bringing his pickles on tour with him, Mo has expanded his burgeoning Mo Piklz empire, setting up shop in some local breweries. The first to take an interest was Hoax Brewing Company in East Haven, CT, which is run by the same team who used to run the DIY recording studio Crunch House in West Haven. They invited Mo to DJ, and sell his pickles there.
New England Brewing Company in Woodbridge, CT also now carries Mo Piklz.
At shows, in addition to his pickles, Mo also now has pickled pineapple, as well as Mo Piklz t-shirts, and even earrings, the latter created by artist friend Melissa Oliver.
One of Mo’s ultimate goals is to get Mo Piklz into grocery stores in CT, and ideally he’d like to start that process by the end of the year.
The pickle king of Connecticut
Is Mo Niklz on the verge of being fitted for a crown as the pickle king of Connecticut? He laughs at the notion of the title, although that hasn’t stopped his friends from using it.
“The joke was I would be on tour, and I would be in Minneapolis, or something, and people are just like, ‘Connecticut’s best DJ, Mo Niklz!’ And I’m just like – nobody here cares that I’m from Connecticut. I would argue I’m not the best DJ in Connecticut, but I guess it really doesn’t matter, so that led to this joke where I’m making pickles, so I’m the self-proclaimed pickle king of Connecticut.”
As some may remember, there was a famous food king in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Mo says, with both a laugh, and a hint of optimism, “It’s like Abe Froman, sausage king of Chicago. Maybe I can legitimately be the pickle king of Connecticut. I’m there for that.”