An Interview with Emporium Pies on The Risks of Running a Pie Shop and Recipe Testing (Not as Fun as it Sounds)
Emporium Pies opened just several months ago in a remodeled 1930's Victorian bungalow in the heart of the Bishop Arts District. It all began, however, in 2011 when Megan Wilkes, 26, and Mary Gauntt, 24, met through a mutual friends. Wilkes had hopes of becoming an independent business owner and Gauntt had a knack for baking.
Emporium Pie, Mary Gauntt (left) and Megan Wilkes (right)
Call it a slice of fate.
Gauntt started testing dozens of pie recipes, while Wilkes created a business plan with 17 different reasons for failure. Since then, they've made it through two holiday seasons. And while the young women are quickly learning the business of pie, they're trying in earnest to take it slowly, even when that involves an air mattress outside the kitchen to move pies all night.
What made you ladies want to open a pie shop?
Wilkes: When I moved here after college in Oklahoma, I was doing interior design, but I wanted to work for myself. I just wanted to have a little more flexibility. Then, I knew I wanted something along the lines of a community place, like a coffee shop, but eventually settled on a pie shop.
So, Megan, you run the business side of things?
Wilkes: Yep, I manage the business and the front end of the store. Mary manages the back of the store [the kitchen] and develops all the recipes.
Mary, when did you start baking?
Gauntt: In college.
Just cracked a couple cookbooks?
Gauntt: Yeah, I was basically just making cookies for myself and they really weren't that good, so I figured out how to make my own recipes. I started researching it online and reading people's reviews on how recipes work, then I started reading baking science books and learning different things, like what makes it more tender, what makes the flavor better and learned about the mixing method, which makes a huge difference too.
What about different types of flour?
Gauntt: As soon as flour hits liquid, gluten forms. The more you mix, the tougher it gets. So, you should really just mix the ingredients [she's talking specifically about cookies still] enough so that they are combined. If you over-mix, the cookies will be tough because the gluten strands get tighter and tighter.