Noble Pies is not your typical new start up company. It evolved accidentally.
After a successful summer and fall selling pies on the side of the road the town made us leave the highway. We got a permit to sell from our driveway (with far less traffic). Luckily for us, our road is a shortcut taken by many people on their way to and from Applewood Winery and apple orchards. We moved our trademark “Turn Back for Pies” signs to the ends of our road, and added a few lawn signs further away leading people to our stand.
When Thanksgiving came we had big plans. We took and ad out in the local paper, put up flyers in delis and stores, anything we could think of to get the word out. When we started getting orders we had to figure out how to keep track of them, and how far away we would deliver. Yes, we offering DELIVERY for the pies, figuring we would get more sales that way. And did we ever. Each day we could come home from work (remember, we were still working full time shoeing horses) and check our voicemail. Every day the orders piled up. We were starting to panic… how many pies could we make? It would be bad for business to turn anyone away, so we took every order that came in. We started ordering supplies. We were getting our flour from King Arthur in Vermont, and our boxes came from Iowa, so we had to order way in advance to make sure they were delivered in time. We got one of those little apple peeling “machines” you see everywhere; it clamps onto the table, has a crank you stick the apple on and it peels, cores and spiral cuts the apple. Then you can use an apple slicer to cut the apple into sections. We still use that same method for the 1000 apples we cut up each year for Applefest. Pumpkin pies were also a challenge, since they used a lot of eggs. We broke open all the eggs we needed and stored them in jars so we could pour them into the recipe. This actually worked much better than it sounds.
Monday before Thanksgiving we started the process. We took the week off from work to get it all done. Imagine: we have a 12 quart bowl, in this bowl I would mix up each and every batch of dough by hand, 4 pies worth at a time. Back then Tom “didn’t bake”, he strictly prepared fruit and mixed up the fillings. We weren’t keeping records back then, but I believe we made about 200 pies for Thanksgiving. I would make the dough, then roll out each crust on the kitchen table. Not a worktable like we have now, which is 36” high. It was our kitchen table, only 30” high. 400 pie crusts (bottoms and tops). I am proud to say that I was able to do it fast enough that Tom could just barely keep up with making the fillings and getting them into the pies. Of course, the main problem was that our oven could only bake 4 pies at a time. We had pies everywhere waiting their turn to into the oven. We had boxes everywhere. We had supplies stacked everywhere. And we could only bake four pies at a time. We didn’t get much sleep.
At least half of them had to be delivered. That was a serious challenge. Everyone had to get their pies the day (or evening, as it turned out) before the holiday. Our daughter had just started driving. She and a friend did all of the deliveries. We would load up the cars with the pie orders. They would deliver them and then come back for another round! If you can remember when you first started driving, you realize that even though you have lived somewhere for years, you never paid attention to how to get anywhere. You got in the car with your parents and voila! You were there. Even with the basic GPS that was available then, finding the homes took time. That is why deliveries went on into the evening, and on into the night. But the customers were wonderful! Everyone was so kind and supportive of our efforts, thanking us and happy to get their pies.
Through the rest of the fall season tourists and local people kept us in business. We put up the tent and sold pies out of our driveway until the snow started to fall. We knew winter was going to be problematic and were not sure what we would do about that. We thought we might need to find a “real” location.
One evening we were dropping off pies for a Back Pack Snack Attack fundraiser at Hip and Chic in the Meadowcrest Shopping Plaza (where we now reside). We saw that the shop next door was vacant and inquired. It turned out that the landlord already knew of us and suggested that we give it a try on weekends for the coming Christmas holidays. We had heat, electricity, a folding table and chairs and a small temporary Noble Pies banner. We made pies and sold them there on weekends. We were warm and people found us at our new spot, buying pies and placing orders for the coming holidays.
Our first Christmas sales were staggering. For three weekends we sold everything we could crank out, so we kept selling from the storefront on weekends after Christmas. We ran an ad in the local paper and the orders poured in. Our house had become pie central. We couldn’t afford pre-folded boxes so they had to be assembled. There were hundreds stacked in our house and they were folded by our children. We were gearing up for Easter, running ads, making signs, folding more boxes. We knew we would have to literally bake around the clock, only being able to bake eight pies at a time in our small home oven, there was no time for sleep.