By Lauren Bolden, Owner, Pie Bar
The end of the year always comes with a sigh of relief. A collective “we made it,” and I think that for the past two years our sighs were a bit louder and wearier than in years past.
If you go back and read the 2019 Recap, you’ll see that I was finally paying attention to the business side of my business. Before that, I was making sure the pies got baked and the coffee got brewed, but in 2019, I began learning about payroll, taxes, and cost of goods analysis (yawn).
I was super excited to take this new knowledge into 2020 and have our *best year evahhh* only to be greeted by a global pandemic. You can read about the transition we made from “let's grow this thang!” to “do whatever it takes to not go out of business” in the 2020 Recap.
Since 2020, operating a small food business has meant being willing to change everything about your daily routine and concept just to ensure you remain in business: operating hours? Let’s change them. Menu? Gotta change it! Products? Ch-ch-ch-anges!
2021 was supposed to be the year of redemption. The year following a global pandemic that brought so much struggle and overwhelm to people everywhere. I think in reality we all learned that just because a calendar shifts doesn’t mean everything just automatically changes, no matter how badly we want it to.
As we entered 2021, we had been living in a global pandemic for many months and were feeling like we had some footing and were able to operate our shops and keep our teams healthy and safe. A big goal for us going into 2021 was to engage with the Marietta Community (we had just opened a new shop in the Marietta Square in August 2020!) as well as find a way to reconnect with our Downtown Woodstock community.
We began by showing up digitally since there was still not much gathering happening in person. In January 2021, I filmed a video with our pals at Cobb Landmarks. The idea was for me to bake a whole Apple Pie using their 1850's wood-burning cast iron cook stove while wearing an outfit that I will dub as Pioneer Chic. I spent a whole day at the Root House practicing this to make sure when the camera team showed up, I was READY TO GO.
It turns out, hamming it up in front of the camera does not go well with baking a pie in an oven fueled by literal flame, because that pie came out *toasty*..and toasty is the nice way of saying BURNT.
Apparently, people respond to nonsense on camera, because in February I kept the ball rolling by spending time with my favorite News Anchor, Paul Milliken with Good Day Atlanta. He came by the Woodstock Shop to challenge me to a zest-off as well as promote small businesses during the pandemic. If there is a gem in this world, it is Paul and his team.
As the world began to slowly re-open, we decided to host our first back-in-person event in March 2021: A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for our Marietta Square Little Free Pie-Brary. It turned out that many people were not quite ready to venture out into the world, so although the ceremony was a success, we opted to return to digital hangs instead of in-person parties. This meant we stepped up our free online classes throughout April and May to make sure that we were staying connected with our communities. We also tried to partner these classes with national holidays because of the impact we found that they could have on our small business.
We hosted digital classes with our friends at Alma Coffee and Maple Street Biscuit Company. We chose to work with these companies because of some of our shared values: putting people first, creating a product you are infinitely proud of, and caring deeply for the people that support them. These classes gave our team an opportunity to stretch their creative muscles and find ways to engage with our communities in addition to allowing us to partner with other companies in our area that are doing business the way we want to do business.
As June and July rolled around, we settled into a routine in our shops and I believe many of us settled into a routine at home. We had been inside of the pandemic for over a year at this point, with many of us becoming vaccinated and venturing out into the world!
Pie Bar Marietta celebrated 1 year in business in August and Pie Bar Woodstock celebrated 6 years in September. We received a shout-out from everyone's Aunt's favorite magazine, Southern Living, and our Marietta team went to work with all of the festivals and events that take place in the Marietta Square during October (basically Marietta is Halloweentown and we loved it).
November showed up and we were ready for it. This would be our second year employing the Pie Drive-Thru for Thanksgiving Pie Pick-Ups and we were excited. For three days our team prepped, baked, boxed, and handed off over 1,800 pies. This is a feat all on its own, but within those three days we were able to experience firsthand one of our Core Values as a business: Warm Memories. This may seem like an odd Core Value, but as a business that promotes that our purpose is to bring joy through pie, Warm Memories are exactly what we hope to create. Our team laughed together, danced together, and served hundreds of folks all in the name of pie.
December was our largest Christmas Season to date. Over the course of the year one of the ways we pivoted was by finding items that we could add to our menu and shops that would enhance the pies and the Pie Bar experience and not distract from the overall purpose. This included custom pie flavored hot teas, a collaboration with Butter & Cream to create a Blueberry Pie Ice Cream, and we launched Warm Memories: a printed journal that has stories from guests all over the country as well as several Pie Bar recipes.
By the end of 2021, our team was exhausted. Our core team has remained the same over the past two years of the pandemic, and they have gone through the ups and downs alongside me as we navigated what would be next for Pie Bar and how we would continue to serve our guests well. At the end of the year, we decided to set our intention for 2022, and no matter how the pandemic progresses, I hope that we can continue to come back to it as needed.
2022 for Pie Bar will be the Year of Fun!!
I know there is nothing insightful or inspiring about that. Nothing to rally behind or scream from a rooftop. And that is kind of the purpose. The past two years have been an onslaught of one thing after another, and I think it is high time we say “no more drama, we came on this trip for fun.” At this point, I do not know what the fun will entail or look like. In fact, that is a part of the fun..to allow it to wash over us as we navigate this next year. But I do know that instead of making decisions based on fear (2020) or the desire to re-rail the train (2021) my decision-o-meter will beep the loudest when we make decisions based on what will be the most fun.
Cheers to the Pie Bar Team having fun in 2022.
Cheers to you having fun in 2022.
Cheers to 2022 and THE YEAR OF FUN!