My son Wil manages our family business–I’m in charge of the pies, but Wil is definitely in charge of the pie shop. He’s so passionate about it in fact, that you might think that when I opened the Pie Kitchen in our home on Burd Street when Wil was ten years old, that he was probably the kind of kid who was in there inventing and creating with flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. He was probably out there drumming up business with friends and neighbors trying to earn a little pocket money.
But that’s not the way it was. No, when Wil was a boy his idea of Mom’s pie shop was that it was an endless source of homemade cookies (yes, I baked cookies back then too) and all he had to do was to reach into those cookie bins with his grimy hands and grab some–and some for his friends too! And then there were those big bowls of apples, peeled and cut, measured out and sugared up, ready to put into crusts. He’d reach in there too, grab a handful, and out the door he’d fly completely heedless of the fact that he had just thrown off the carefully measured ingredients for Mom’s next pies.
On occasion I would entrust Wil (and his best friend Michael) with the task of delivering a pie to some neighbor or other. For some reason that neither boy could explain at the time, these pies just might come back undelivered, crushed in a box and fit to be eaten only by two grubby ten year old boys. Years later Wil seems to recollect at least one of those pies getting caught in the customer’s swinging screen door…hard to imagine, but then again when you put two ten year old boys together there’s no telling what might happen!
One of my most vivid memories is of Wil and Michael playing a little catch with a golf ball in the family kitchen. While it’s never a good idea to play ball in the house, this turned out to be an especially unfortunate game of catch when the ball landed–plop–right in the middle of a pie that was cooling on a rack, ready for a customer. Oh, those boys thought it was hilarious! And so do I…now!
The original Pie Kitchen was back through our garden, past the clothesline, and up the porch steps. Sometimes a customer would arrive to pick up an ordered pie and there it would be on the porch with a cigar box waiting to receive the money. I had to run out on an errand, or pick up children, or something. During those years I was a pie lady trying to do it all myself. I always hoped that sometime along the way I would meet someone who would be a good business partner. I wanted the business to grow but I didn’t know how to do it.
Never did I dream that years later my son Wil would become that person. I had long since closed the Pie Kitchen and moved to upstate New York when Wil came to me and said, “Mom, I really want to start up your business again–I know we can do it!” So I taught him how to bake a pie, and with the help of on-going telephone calls he began baking and selling pies much like I had done in the beginning. Meantime we turned Wil’s small kitchen into an approved home bakery , and I began driving down every week to help bake for the farmer’s market on Thursdays. Within a few months Wil was eager to open a small bakeshop and was thrilled to show me the large (small?) empty building that he thought would be perfect. I was frightened, but Wil wasn’t. “Mom,” he said, “we have some momentum going, people are thrilled to have your pies again. Now is the time to jump in and find out if we can really make this work. So are you in…?” Well, of course I was.
Meantime our large (small?) empty building is bulging at the seams and buzzing with activity. The smell of fresh baked pies (and cookies, and muffins) fills the air and drifts out the door into the parking lot, even as far as the high school football field down the street. There is no longer a clothesline for customers to pass by, or a cigar box waiting to meet them; ten year old boys are not allowed to run through the kitchen snitching cookies and apples. But the pies are the same as they were back then, and it feels as homey as ever in the pie shop.
Best of all, I got my wish. Children do grow up, and thanks to Wil, we now have a growing family business. I guess you could say that mother and son have both grown up–now we’re the “Pie Lady and Son!”
– The Pie Lady