When the coronavirus pandemic hit Denver in March, Virgil Dickerson started a mission. He'd been making kimchi for several years using a recipe he gleaned from his mom, who makes her own kimchi from memory and taste, with no measuring cups or scales, and he'd shared jars with a few friends. But to balance out the depression and isolation many people have been experiencing during the pandemic, Dickerson wanted to "put something good out there in the universe" by upping his production and bringing jars of kimchi to more friends and neighbors stuck at home or limiting their social outings.
So Dickerson set out on foot and handed out a few jars to friends. Then he hopped on his bicycle and widened his delivery radius, biking to various neighborhoods to share his fermented cabbage with more and more people. He even rode his bike as far as Golden and Aurora with jars stuffed into his backpack. "There were definitely days when I put forty or fifty miles on my bike," he notes.
Eventually, the truth couldn't be denied: Dickerson's kimchi was good enough to sell. After all, the unanimous voices of 500 people couldn't be wrong — and that's how many jars he delivered between March 26 and this week (when jar number 500 landed in a lucky recipient's hands). Dickerson named his product KREAM Kimchi and just received his cottage business certification and sales tax license so he can legally sell to the public (although the certification does not allow him to sell to restaurants or grocery stores).
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If you're one of the 500 who has already received a jar, you've seen the KREAM Kimchi label on the jars; it's a continuation of KREAM Consulting, the business Dickerson founded last year after losing his job of eight years at Illegal Pete's. The name was inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan song "C.R.E.A.M.," only Dickerson's world is ruled by kimchi, not cash.
Before Illegal Pete's, Dickerson ran the Suburban Home record label for eighteen years, and he's kept a handhold in both the food and music industries with his consulting company, and with recent marketing jobs with Marble Distilling and the Passport Program. He hadn't planned on turning kimchi into a source of income, but the encouragement he received helped push him toward the decision. "When I started making kimchi for friends, I never thought about starting a business, I just wanted to shine a little light in a time of darkness," he explains, adding that if things go well, he hopes to expand from a cottage business to a full commercial food business.
Cabbage and daikon radish are the two main ingredients in Dickerson's kimchi recipe, and now that he's selling jars, he makes batches with fifty pounds of cabbage and ten pounds of daikon at a time, resulting in 25 one-quart jars for each batch. Those jars sell for $12.99 each, in traditional or vegan (without the dried shrimp found in many kimchi recipes) versions on the KREAM Kimchi website, and he'll also be selling at farmers' markets around town.
On Saturday, August 8, Dickerson will have jars of KREAM Kimchi at the Penn Street Market, hosted by Uncle at 95 South Pennsylvania Street. Most of the jars have already been pre-ordered, but Dickerson will have a few in reserve for walk-up customers.