"Pie North Bishop is ours!" I just got off the phone with Megan Wilkes, proprietor of Emporium Pies, who told me she and her partner Mary Gauntt signed the lease for their pie shop yesterday. Wilkes' pie pun -- there are always pie puns -- is a riff on the building's address, 314 North Bishop Avenue. They're hoping to have the space ready for the masses this fall.
Last Christmas the pair was selling slices of Mr. Macintosh and Smooth Operator (apple and French Silk Pie) at grocery stores like Urban Acres and Corner Market. Then in February they went pop-up, opening a temporary pie shop in the Bishop Arts District during the neighborhood's Mardi Gras celebration. Wilkes and Gauntt used the weekend long set up as a low risk test run. They wanted to see if pies by the slice made for a viable business. It did.
Next comes the heavy lifting. The building, a 1930s Victorian Bungalow, as Wilkes describes it, is the furthest thing from a functioning bakery and storefront. Walls need to be moved to open up the space and two kitchens need to be installed. A small kitchen up front will let customers watch pies as they're baked by hand, and a larger kitchen in the back will drive their whole sale business.
Good Space, the real estate company behind Bolsa, Bolsa Mercado and Lucia, owns the house and will help Wilkes and Gauntt off the ground, giving the building a fresh look on the outside and offering advice on the series of hoops they'll have to jump through to earn their certificate of occupancy.
Hopefully they won't be too busy building out to make pies in their rented commercial kitchen this summer. If they've got the time, I've got a request: a crusty number, whose flakiness is derived from lard, or even duck fat, and filled with luscious summer peaches punctuated with bourbon's breath. A simple, clean pie that celebrates summer as well as vine-ripened tomatoes, Popsicles and charcoal grills.
I'd order two.
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