Entrepreneur Paul Siegel knows how to turn lemons into lemonade—using his painful divorce to create a specialty food business.
Paul’s Perky Produce was born in a home kitchen when Siegel, who grew up and lived in Great Neck from 1960 to 1976, was going through a nasty divorce and began pickling produce as a distraction to retain his humor and health.
“If it moved, I pickled it,” the head chef of the recent startup joked. “Cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans, corn and more. I gave them away to everyone who even hinted they were a foodie. And, the feedback was—rather surprisingly—fantastic. As fast as I created and gave them away, friends asked for more, so I jokingly began to think of myself as a master pickler. For a good laugh, I created labels with Paul’s Pickled Produce on the front with a rudimentary design.”
After he started making apple sauce for the holidays, it became clear to the Great Neck North grad, who went on to the University of Pennsylvania, that his pickling labels didn’t fully fit his products.
“A few alliterations later, I landed on Paul’s Perky Produce,” he explained, adding the company tagline of Happy, Healthy and (W)holesome, based on how cooking made him feel.
Siegel’s desire to create unique sauces, salsas, marinades, rubs, jams, dressings, dips and mashes eventually led to his Paul’s Perky Produce line. He wanted to put a smile on customers’ faces with the quality of his products’ flavors, textures and aromas; the unique combinations of produce; and the creations’ clever names, such as fun salsas like Kiwi Pineapple Aloha-ha-ha-ha and Jimmy Crack Corn, tangy BBQ sauces called Jersey Badda Bing Badda Boom BBQ Sauce and apple sauces dubbed Pearalicous Apple Sauce.
Interestingly, Siegel believes that his family member Leatrice Karlin was the editor of the Record for a number of years. Sadly, his parents, Bertha and Mitchel Siegel, recently passed away. His mother was a special-education teacher in Great Neck and Hicksville, and his father was the head of anesthesiology at Booth Memorial Medical Center. Siegel is extremely appreciative that he, his brother, David, a hand surgeon in Tucson, and sister, Martha, an artist and one-time attorney in San Francisco, had the opportunity to grow up in Great Neck.
Siegel is now on a mission to create great food. Paul’s Perky Produce products use no preservatives, artificial or GMO ingredients, are made gluten free and are low in sodium, carbohydrates, cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat.
With his new company, the entrepreneur is also aiming to eliminate parental alienation—“the all-too-prevalent estrangement of a child from a parent in some divorcing families that causes enormous pain for both parents and children.” Paul’s Perky Produce donates 10 percent of all profits to major national nonprofit organizations focused on preventing and solving the Parental Alienation Syndrome crisis, which he said, “separates loving parents from their children and harms the lives of those children for many years.”
Paul’s Perky Produce can be found in specialty and gourmet shops as well as on Amazon Prime. For more information, visit www.paulsperkyproduce.com. Learn more about the company’s charitable giving at www.paulsperkyproduce.com/donations.