Pulling into the parking lot of the Mr. Davis Bread & Butter Pickles storefront in Blytheville, it’s hard to miss the lifesize cardboard cutout of Blytheville native Dedric Davis, aka Mr. Davis Pickles, aka Pickleberg Slim, standing in the window flashing a big smile, wearing a black cowboy hat and a “Mr. Davis Pickles LLC” T-shirt, jars of his hand-cut, Mississippi County-grown pickled cucumbers in each hand. If you’re lucky, or if it’s a Saturday, a grill in front of the store will be smoking with pickled beef and vegetable products that are quickly becoming famous around Blytheville and beyond. Upon entering the establishment, which officially opened for retail business in October of 2020, Mr. Davis Pickles himself might be on hand to greet you with his signature stack of slogans: “Welcome to Mr. Davis Pickles. Make your next pickle your best pickle. Eat Mr. Davis Pickles and the world is yours.”
A gracious host, Davis is happy to list off every kind of pickle he has displayed behind a glass case, which includes sweet and spicy and just plain sweet versions of bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, sour pickles, the “hottest pickle in the world — get ready!”, pickled sliced jalapenos, pickle relish, pickled eggs, a chow chow collaboration between Davis and his wife featuring a portrait of the couple on the label, pickled bell peppers and onions, pickled okra, pickled green tomatoes, pickled turkey bologna and, yes, what we smelled on the grill — pickled beef hot dogs. “Best hot dog you’ll ever eat in your life,” Davis said. The display case also holds three gardening awards and an ornate, heavy, legitimate-looking World Heavyweight Championship wrestler’s belt.
“I’m going to be the pickle champion of the world,” Davis said. “So when I get up in the morning and I come up here and I look at this belt, it makes me know I got a goal in mind and that’s to be the best.”
Davis, 41, worked as a preschool teacher for the Mississippi County Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission’s Head Start program for 13 years. During that time he became a master gardener and chair of the MCAEOC’s community garden. In addition to teaching preschool, he taught students around Blytheville about gardening.
Davis left the economic opportunity commission at the end of 2019 to be a full-time pickle maker/manufacturer. He plans to continue educating children about horticulture. In fact, the character of Mr. Davis Pickles is something “for the kids,” he said. “It is very important for children to understand where the food they eat comes from.”
Davis’ foray into gardening started with a chance encounter when he was driving around on a particularly hot summer day and saw a woman who reminded him of his grandmother.
“I was fresh out of college, broke, frustrated and there was an older lady taking gallon buckets of water from her house to her garden.”
Davis pulled over and asked if she needed help. He spent the next few hours with her, weeding, tilling, watering and “just talking about life.” Davis said the stress he felt before he pulled over was gone.
“I thought I was helping her,” he said, “but I actually helped myself. I fell in love with gardening and that was all she wrote.”
Davis became a master gardener and won the Rookie of the Year award from the UA Division of Agriculture in 2015.
Gardening would play a major role in Davis’ personal life as well. While mowing lawns for extra income, Davis befriended a woman named Tamaki Mathis after cutting her grass one day.
A domestic violence survivor, Mathis started the company SISTER’S with her two young daughters in 2015, making all-natural beauty products. Mathis donates 10 percent of SISTER’S proceeds to The Haven, a nonprofit in Northeast Arkansas that provides emergency shelter, supportive care and education to victims of domestic abuse.
After learning about Mathis’ story, Davis talked her into becoming a gardener.
“Through gardening, we fell in love,” Davis said. “Gardening taught us both patience and helped with post-traumatic stress disorder. People don’t know just being out with nature and just watching a plant grow and that quietness and that peace. It’s just different, man.”
Mathis became a master gardener, too, and she, along with Davis and fellow volunteer Jerry Marshall, won the “Project of the Year’’ from the UA Division of Agriculture in 2017.
Master gardener becomes master pickler
As love blossomed in the garden, so did a profusion of cucumbers. Davis gave some to his mother who pickled them and let Davis sample them. Upon tasting one of his mother’s pickles, unimpressed, he said, “I can do better than that.”
Now inspired, Davis started making jars of pickles out of his home kitchen and created a recipe using herbs from his garden.
Around that time, Mathis was heading to a farmers market in Pocahontas (Randolph County) to sell SISTER’S products and convinced Davis to come along and bring his pickles.
“I had, like, 100 jars of pickles and within 30 minutes to an hour every last one of them was gone,” Davis said.
Davis had labels made and was able to get his pickles in the local Hays Supermarket in Blytheville and Gunn’s Grocery store in Wilson. Jonesboro news station KAIT, Channel 8, interviewed Davis and aired a story about his home-pickling business. After the interview aired, the Health Department paid him a visit, and he had to pull his products off the shelves because he didn’t have the proper licenses and equipment to run a pickle manufacturing business.
Davis received a call from Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson, who’d purchased some of Davis’ pickles from a local festival.
“He said, ‘Man, you got a good product.’ He said, ‘Don’t do anything, I might be able to help you out.’ ”
With Nelson’s help, Davis was able to get his business licenses and a grant through the city of Blytheville. Davis acquired his storefront in 2019. He officially opened in May of 2020 and then opened for retail in October to “survive the pandemic.” In December of 2020, he started giving away free hot dogs to the community on Saturdays.
“There were people starving during COVID-19 when it first hit and got bad … I gave away over 5,000 [hot dogs],” he said.
Now known as “Pickle Dog Saturday,” the community is welcome to come and try his grilled pickled hot dogs that he slathers with sweet and spicy pickled onions and peppers that boil in a grill pan in their pickling brine, providing a sweet heat relish flavor to the pickled dogs. The pickle flavor is not overwhelming and the heat stays with you. It’s a new hot dog experience worth seeking. Some customers give donations, but “they don’t have to if they don’t want to,” Davis said. “It was just a way to feed the people. It didn’t cost me a lot, just the effort and also to promote my products.”
“Those hot dogs, the flavor is everything in the store. If you want the whole flavor of Mr. Davis Pickles, you get ’em in those hot dogs,” he said.
Davis credits the idea to childhood lessons he learned from his grandmother.
“There were people in her community who didn’t have much, so if they wanted some food she would feed them on the weekends,” Davis said.
Davis and Mathis got married in April of this year, becoming Mr. and Mrs. Davis Pickles.
“COVID-19 cancelled it twice, but we finally got it done,” Davis said. “She’s the reason why I am who I am right now. … She shows me how to hold my head up, she believes in me. She told me, ‘You got something good, baby.’ She said, ‘Just don’t throw it away, keep going.’ ”
Mr. Davis Pickles is certainly going. Davis is working with farmers in Mississippi County to try and keep all of Mr. Davis Pickles’ produce local. “Cotton is king around here, he said, “but we can do something different. We have the [fertile farming] soil, we have enough land.” He’s also planning a pickle festival and hoping to go on a marketing tour around the state to get Mr. Davis Pickles products in more stores. In addition to several Hays Supermarkets, Davis’ pickles are sold in Perkins Restaurant in Blytheville, American Made General Store, Kings Backyard BBQ, Food Smart in Newport and Ella B’s in Arlington, Texas, across the street from where the Dallas Cowboys play at AT&T Stadium. Ella B’s is owned by Blytheville native and former Dallas Cowboys chef Patrick Whitfield and his wife, Patricia. Davis and Whitfield grew up together, and for the upcoming season, Whitfield invited Davis to come down for the home games to grill his pickled dogs for tailgaters.
Before leaving Blytheville, Mr. Davis Pickles, host extraordinaire, sent us home with a jar of his brand-new, not-yet-released creation — and my personal favorite, the barbecue pickle made with his own barbecue sauce. He also gave us some SISTER’S Kool-Aid pickles and jars of pickled turkey bologna. He placed a sticker that read “I eat Mr. Davis Bread and Butter Pickles,” on my shirt and said, “You’ve been pickled.”
If you want to get pickled, too, you can buy Mr. Davis Pickles products from his website.