By Lauren Bolden, Owner, Pie Bar
If you were to look back through my past “Pie Bar Year End Recaps,” you’ll notice I generally operated by season. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. I planned our pie menu around what was growing across the southeast, so I thought only in those terms.
For the first 3 years of Pie Bar’s existence, my thoughts were consumed with the seasonality of pie. How will we make them? What flavors will we make? When do I get to eat them?
This year when I sat down to write out the Pie Bar 2019 Year End Recap, I immediately noticed a difference. I did not think in terms of seasons, but instead I thought in terms of quarters. Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4.
For those of you that know what that means, you already understand the significance of this transition. If you are wondering what the hell I am talking about, let me briefly explain. Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 are abbreviations for “Quarter 1 - Quarter 4” and are used when looking at a business's fiscal year. Snore.
In the space of a single year, I went from studying almanacs and knowing exactly when Florida’s best strawberries hit the market (for Strawberry Pie, of course) to focusing my energy on what our labor costs looked like in Q3 versus Q4. Double Snore.
Of course, this change did not happen overnight..and this change definitely does not mean I no longer think about pie. In fact, I would argue I think about pie more now than I did in the past..I just think about it on a grander scale. How will this flavor of pie impact our team’s baking routine? Am I able to get this ingredient shipped to me by the pallet? When do I get to eat them?
This transition has meant our team and our business is growing, and in order to remain a business with strong values, we have had to learn how to think bigger without foregoing the details.
Each quarter has brought new challenges and new growths for our team. I hope as you read below that you are as proud of yourself as I am. We could never have accomplished this without you.
Q1: January - March (Winter 2019)
In January 2019, Cody and I sat down and discussed our future. He knew he wanted to pursue music on a more serious level and Pie Bar needed more than just me. It was a tough realization, but it was an important one.
Pie Bar needed other people to care about the processes, the customers, and the pies as much as Cody and I did. We knew we needed a Shop Manager, and Vivian was the perfect person to fill that role.
She joined the team and got right to work! If you have enjoyed pie and received excellent customer service this past year..that was in part thanks to Vivian. Next time you are in the shop, make sure to give her a hello. She’s the dark haired smokeshow with the great smile!
Once Vivian joined the team, Pie Bar was able to expand. We built out and moved our baking team into a second kitchen a few miles from Downtown Woodstock. We lovingly named it the “Extension Kitchen”. The Extension Kitchen has given me what I have always wanted...walk in refrigerators and freezers...and allowed us to grow our team, our pie baking capacity, and Pie Provisions.
Of course, figuring out how to manage a split team and operate a second location has come with some challenges, but it has also brought us the opportunity to learn how to work as a team and improve our overall communication skills.
I would be remiss if I did not mention our Hands On Pie Baking Classes. In years past we hosted occasional baking classes at Pie Bar. They were fun, educational, and a bit cramped. Thanks to the Extension Kitchen, we now offer classes on a monthly basis and they are taught by everyone’s favorite Pie Bar OG, Olivia Pisano! She taught over 125 students this year how to bake their best pie, and we secretly kept an eye out for pie baking prodigies in each class.
We closed out Q1 with our highest attended event to date -- Pie Day (March 14th) with the theme of “Puppies & Pies”. We saw well over 100 dogs and even more people! Shout out to Cody for laying out real sod in our parking lot..and then rolling it back up at the end of the night. He is the real hero of this event.
Q1 ended up being one of our most productive times in 2019. It laid a foundation for us to continue to bake you the perfect pie and give you the best experience possible for years to come.
Q2: April - June (Spring 2019)
Cody and I did more traveling in 2019 than in years past thanks to the Extension Kitchen moving along and the shop running smoothly.
We visited New York City, Alaska, and in Q2 we headed out west to ol’ San Francisco. We were invited to teach some of the Pinterest team how to make the perfect pie crust...and those Pinners are pie making naturals!
Of course, our biggest project in Q2 was our 30 Days of Kindness Project. One of Pie Bar’s values is “Community” and we wanted to invest some serious time into those around us. We hosted fun events, service events, and even built a Little Free Pie-Brary (which has become a permanent fixture!).
In the past, we used to begrudgingly work through Summer to “make it” to Fall. This year, we refocused our energy on making a positive impact and instead of trying to just get through Q2, we made it a season that we continued to reflect on throughout the rest of the year!
This was the quarter I finally began to open up to you. All year long, I had been thinking about the milestone of Pie Bar turning FOUR, of my transition in the business from baker to boss, and the struggle I was having of letting go and allowing others to take ownership.
I shared pretty private thoughts with you through our email newsletter, and the outpouring of support was overwhelming. I thought no one would understand, but in fact, whether you own your own small business or not, the feelings of “not enough” seem to be pretty universal. It turns out many of us have failed at letting go, or being a good boss, or losing important clients.
What I learned from those conversations (what started as one email turned into a series of emails and responses from so many of you!) was that it is okay to be honest about the good things and the tough things. I started to see that in order for Pie Bar to grow deeper within the community, we need to do things like 30 Days of Kindness AND be honest about our humanity. This was a gift and for it, I will forever be grateful.
We also launched something we had been waiting to do for quite some time -- shipping our pies nationwide! This was tremendous because it meant we now had the capacity to fill, store, and pack these orders, but also that we had the customer base who wanted to share a little piece of Woodstock with someone they cared about.
Let’s be honest..shipping a pie is not an inexpensive gift, so each time we received an order for one of our hometown pies to be shipped across the country, I knew you were saying you trusted us to send some joy to someone you love...or if you were sending it to yourself..I knew that you just loved pie that much..and please know, you are my people.
We wrapped up the summer with a video that we made with Loud South Productions. It featured local artists, Pie Provisions’ pies, and our lovely neighbor -- Mrs. Judy! She played the role of “Grandmother” and totally crushed it.
Q4: October - December (Fall 2019)
Finally.. It is Pie Season. We began planning for our Super Bowl (Thanksgiving) in October. No joke. We write out plays, we beef up our team, and we practice, practice, practice baking the perfect Thanksgiving Pie.
This year, we served over 1,500+ pies, and the good news is..we didn’t die! Yay! Our baking team worked together to make you the perfect holiday pies, and our front of house team worked together to keep the lines moving quickly and you happy!
We also kicked off a new project this quarter. We loved how the 30 Days of Kindness project introduced us to new people and allowed us to serve our community in a different and fun way. We loved it so much, that we wanted to continue the tradition by hosting something special each month, which is why we started our "For the Masses" Project.
Our most noteworthy For the Masses Project event came in the form of cookies. Yes, you read that right..cookies. We hosted a Toy Drive and Cookie Exchange. We collected enough toys for 67 children throughout Cherokee County and the cookies were a hit! No worries, we are still your neighborhood pie shop with no intentions of transforming into a cookie spot..BUT it is nice to know yall will show up for cookies, too.
Final 2019 Thoughts
Now, we are only one day away from 2020, and I cannot believe another year has already come to a close. I just re-read my recap..and to be quite frank with you..I obviously struggle with brevity (understatement of the year). I over share only because I care.
So, in an effort to make it up to you, I will make this close out paragraph quick.
Thank you for spending another year with us.
Thank you for supporting a small, local business.
Thank you for loving pie.
See you next year, peeps.- Lauren