How It Began

Caitlin and Yi Wah

Yi Wah and Caitlin grew up eating from-scratch meals made by their mom, featuring a wide representation of cuisines from around the world. Quality ingredients, simple processes and lots of ferments were at the core of her cooking.

This love of funky, sour foods — and an appreciation of quality and community — laid the groundwork for what was to come next: Yi Wah was drinking with a few friends and decided to make pickles. A few weeks later, the fermented pickles were amazingly tangy, sour and flavorful. They were unlike any pickles we had ever tasted in the grocery store. Yi Wah bought a tent and started selling at a farmers' market. Soon, Caitlin was home from college and Yi Wah asked his little sister if she would help out.

As Number 1 Sons grew, we added products and markets each year. We started with cucumber pickles in 2012, and began making sauerkraut later that year. The next year it was kimchi. A few years later, we brewed kombucha and added sweet pickles. The year after, it was hot sauce. In 2020, we launched Number 1 Sons Bakehouse — with Steph as head baker — so we could bring you our ideal bagel and more homespun baked goods.

We follow the seasons so we can buy vegetables directly from farms that we know and like. When we can no longer buy domestic pickling cucumbers directly from our farm, we switch to locally grown daikon radishes. Every fall, we make our fermented Chili Bear hot sauce with hundreds of pounds of local peppers.

We love farmers' markets and selling directly to our customers; markets are a great place for community-centric food commerce. We're proud to serve 50,000+ customers every year in DC, MD and VA.

On sourcing

We exist in a world where large, subsidized industrial food systems that operate with a short-term and anonymous perspective about community and the environment are the status quo.

But thankfully, when you build a business around local and regional produce, you meet a lot of great people. We’ve cooked and eaten with many of the farmers and makers whose products we carry. We’ve been to their farms, seen how the sausage is made (wonderfully and deliciously) and know that each does their part to create a better system that benefits all involved, from the worker to you, the eater. We've had honest conversations about the joys and challenges of participating in the food system, and the communities we have now and hope to help create.

We believe all involved in changing the status can and should earn a fair living. We all constantly look for ways to do a better job — that's an enjoyable and endless puzzle — and deliver that. We will alway have discussions about this internally, and with every farmer and make whom we work with. This will always be rooted in mutual cooperation and will never be a demand to accept less than they feel their work is worth.

On sustainability

In addition to building our business to be sustainable for all workers involved, we seek to be good to the environment. We source from farmers we know and trust. We visit the farms to see how your food is grown.

We’re always thinking about ways to reuse resources, such as implementing a glass bottle return for our kombucha. We love to close loops in the food system and minimize waste. That’s why you’ll find spent gin botanicals from our neighbors at One Eight Distilling in some of our ferments. That's why when we make kraut, we save the cabbage hearts and turn them into smoky, spicy, funky Hot Hearts.

And we’re always happy to discuss sustainability, farming techniques and the whole system with you. It’s the only way to build a mindful community — together.

- Yi Wah and the Number 1 Sons crew