Monday, March 29, 2010

Start Your Own "Eat Local" Pie Shop

From time to time, here, I try to feature articles which I think might be good business models during this difficult economic joblessness time period. Since it is Thanksgiving I'll make this pie shop idea my post for today, as the front page of yesterday's WSJ featured a lovely story about a more-than successful pie business.

Cupcakes are popular now, and I have gathered that more than a few people have jumped on that bankwagon bandwagon. (See this.) When you can't get a job, if you can start your own business without having to borrow too much money you're lucky. A successful idea is the key, next to hard work, dedication, and good organizational skills.

There is a pie shop on a lovely bike trail along the Root River in SE Minnesota, near Lanesboro, which I have been to twice. Each time I've been there I've thought what a perfect model it is - great pies available to tourists during the summer biking season. Bikes actually race to the shop like it's a life or death matter to be first in line. They have around 30 pie choices and no one ever wants their choice to be - horrors - gone. Would that every bike trail in the nation had one.

There. That's it. Steal my dream idea because it's not looking like I'm going to get around to doing it.

So, on to the story in the WSJ: Every Thanksgiving Turns Into a Pie Fight at Mommie Helen's.

COLTON, Calif. -- Last year, on the day before Thanksgiving, customers of Dorothy Pryor Rose's bakery who had been waiting in line for hours to buy her famous pies began shoving and shouting. So for today, Ms. Rose decided she wasn't going to take any chances. She hired a security guard to keep the peace, and set up a barrier system to keep people in line. The line was expected to start forming before dawn and take as long as three hours to get through. Although there is nothing she can do to prevent the occasional customer from scalping her treats in the parking lot -- a $12 pie can go for more than $20 -- she hopes her extra counter help will keep the line moving briskly.

The same sort of foodie rush is happening all over America. In Berkeley, Calif., many people wouldn't consider sitting down to the table without a pie from Fat Apple's. In New York, generations have ordered specialty turkeys from the Florence Meat Market in the West Village. In Washington, D.C., Cannon's Fish Market will likely sell 1,500 to 2,000 oysters today for serving on the half shell....Mommie Helen's expects to move a total of 5,000 pies in the two days leading up to Thanksgiving and on the morning of the day itself.

...Ms. Rose, who expects to take in $600,000 to $700,000 this year, says she regularly declines business because her facilities aren't adequate to accommodate the demand....With more resources, Ms. Rose says she could avoid scenes like the time last year when a man came in and offered her $100 for the last remaining pecan pie, which had been reserved by another customer. She thought it over for a split second before telling him: "Sold, take your pie."

Like I say, make my dream yours. Start out small, baking them in your home. Use local fruits and ingredients, if possible. Then, take advantage of the commercial real estate rents which are crashing. Find a good spot and start baking away.

And I still say every bike trail should have one.