Sink your teeth into this: Apples, strawberries, raspberries and marionberries with a crumb top. Sweet, tart and crumbly. That’s perfect pie. It’s called Desserted Island pie.
It’s the Desserted Island pie that’s helped build success for Alyssa and Patrick Lewis, who have been selling their pies to Tacomans through the Proctor Metropolitan Market since last summer. Beyond Tacoma, they’ve supplied pie throughout Western Washington at other Metropolitan Markets locations and their Magnolia pie shop, the Seattle Pie Company.
And now they’re coming to Tacoma in the form of a pie shop and café they’ll open in Old Town. They plan to open the pie shop in March at 2212 N. 30th St., which used to house Old Town Photo (more on that in a bit).
“We’d never been to Tacoma,” said Alyssa Lewis of their inaugural trip to Tacoma not long ago. “We were driving the pies out (to Proctor’s Metropolitan Market) and seeing how it was going. We were about to sign a lease with Madison Valley in Seattle. That was going to be our second (retail) location.” And then they discovered Old Town.
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When Alyssa and Patrick exited Schuster Parkway and drove through Old Town, Madison Valley seemed all wrong for a second shop. Old Town “… just felt right. It’s awesome,” said Lewis. And, because the couple sells more pie at Proctor’s Metropolitan Market than any other Met Market location, Tacoma seemed the right audience for a second shop.
“We fell in love with it,” said Lewis of Old Town, “How come nobody ever told me about this place?” She asked with infectious enthusiasm. If Tacoma wasn’t on her radar before, it is now. She rattled off things she’s fallen in love with in Old Town. The Spar Tavern is at the top of her list.
It’s difficult to imagine, but all their pie success has happened in just seven months. First came the opening of their Seattle retail pie shop in July 2009. Next came a pie supply contract with Metropolitan Markets in November 2009. That Met Market contract coincided with their 1,000 square foot pie expansion at their Seattle pie shop. Now they’re prepping for a second pie location in March 2010 – not even a year after opening their first pie shop.
“It’s insane,” said Lewis of the whirlwind. And did we mention she and husband Patrick are parents of two young boys? Yes, they’ve got their hands full.
Back up a few years to get a full pie picture. Lewis, who grew up in Goldbar, started working for the Snohomish Pie Company while still in high school. She worked at the pie company for eight years, while attending University of Washington where she earned degrees in German and communications. Pie isn’t exactly the career choice for every Ger-Com major (strudel would be a better choice, Lewis quipped), but she said that life has a funny way of pushing people down paths they didn’t know they should take. “When I went to college, I didn’t realize that (pie) was my passion. I just kept making pies, then I kept creating them. Then it became this crazy hobby. I met my husband Patrick. He has had an internet wireless company (and others). He is really business savvy. He said, ‘Let’s open a pie shop.’” And that’s what they did. The German degree? It’s getting some use. She’s writing a cookbook in English and German.
Some might call Lewis a pie purist. She eschews shortening in her pie crusts, and instead uses leaf lard, a fat extracted from the kidney area of a pig. Food purists tout leaf lard for being flavor neutral and a fat that creates a tender, flaky, moist crust. “Shortening tastes of chemicals to me,” said Lewis. “I’m bringing something back (that cooks used to use before shortening). I’m teaching people about food, and what’s natural. Educating my customers is my favorite thing,” said Lewis.
She bakes a wide range of pies – from sweet to savory. Berry pies, fruit pies and cream pies are on her menu. Also, “I have chicken pot pie, beef taco pie, chicken enchilada pie. The savory pies brings the chef out of me,” said Lewis.
Much like how cupcake bakeries have turned cake into a portable dessert – Lewis hopes to do the same with pie. She makes hand-held pup pies, which are mini pies that can be eaten with a spoon on the go. No plate required. She also makes pie candies. “They’re a lot like cupcakes. They’re smaller than cupcakes, the diameter is two inches. You can eat it in three bites. It’s in a wrap like a candy bar.”
The menu at the Tacoma store will be much like that of the Seattle Pie Company – all kinds of pie, but also a café menu full of comfort foods like meatloaf sandwiches, egg salad and tuna salad sandwiches, and Swedish pancakes. She calls the menu “rediscovering the ‘50s.” She’ll continue to make the pies at the Seattle Pie Company, and they’ll be driven to Tacoma (just like they will continue to do so for the Proctor Metropolitan Market).
So what about the name? Seattle Pie Company? Will that brand name fly on a Tacoma storefront? Lewis isn’t convinced it will. “We don’t know about putting the Seattle Pie Company in Tacoma. We feel SPC is the name that will go in there,” said Lewis. But she doesn’t know if that will mean adding Old Town or Commencement Bay or Tacoma to the SPC storefront name. “Our pies will be named after Tacoma, like the Commencement Bay Crumble. We’ll incorporate Old Town into the shop,” she added.
She’d like input from Tacomans on what to name the shop. So, then, here’s your chance. Suggestions? Comment here.
A note on an Old Town business: So what happened to Old Town Photo? Owner Ron Karabaich is still working in Old Town, only now out of a private residence. He's available by appointment at 253-272-3089 and at http://www.oldtownphotoco.com/ UPDATE: The owners of Seattle Pie Company have decided to call the Tacoma cafe and pie shop the Old Town Pie Company. More details will be coming on the opening.
Seattle Pie Company Where: 2212 N. 30th St., TacomaWhen: Coming in March 2010Info: http://www.seattlepiecompany.com/