Featured: John Stern of Pie in the Sky Bakery
by: Veronica Armstrong of www.VeronicaArmstrong.com
There is a pie out there for everyone. Not a fan of cherry? Try apple. Hate fruit? What about pecan? Don’t like pecan? You must like chocolate. Pies are always a hit and John and Nancy Stern of Cape Neddick, Maine’s Pie in the Sky Bakery are masters of their craft. John recently shared some of the secrets behind thirty years of New England pie selling success.
When did Pie in the Sky open?
We opened thirty years ago in October. In 1973, I was making desserts in a restaurant I owned with two other guys in New York City. Nancy was making desserts for restaurants in York, Maine. In 1976 we met. Nancy had moved back to New York and got a job at my restaurant making desserts. After that the three of us opened another restaurant. Nancy made quiche and dessert there as well. I got out of the restaurant business later on in the seventies. Nancy and I decided to open up a bakery out of our apartment in New York and sold pastries to restaurants in the city. That was the beginning of Pie in the Sky.
What made you and Nancy decide to move to Maine?
I had been trying to make the move to Maine for about twenty years. Nancy was originally from there and we had a three year old son and wanted to get out of the city so it made sense for us.
You have a lot of amazing sounding holiday pies on your website. Are you busy year round or is post holiday time your slow season?
Yes, this is the slow season right now. This is a seasonal area. The population about triples in the summer so that is when we are most busy. Things pick up again during the latter half of May through mid-October. Then Thanksgiving of course which is our busiest week of the year and then Christmas after that.
How do you manage the off season?
We recuperate from the busy season and are open only four times a week. We make fewer pies and there is a balance between keeping products fresh and determining what will sell. So there is a challenge there.
What are your top selling flavors? Does it fluctuate throughout the season?
Blueberry pie is our best seller. Wild Maine blueberries are a speciality like Maine lobster. Everyone craves them.
What’s your favorite pie?
That’s a hard question. Of course I like them all but if I had to choose I would pick apple crumb pie.
Do you like the tourists?
I do! I like most of them. Most of them are really great.
Where do you see your business during the next five to ten years?
We’ve had a lot of opportunities to grow and become a big company but we made the decision to stay small. We don’t want to grow. Growing sales and volume a bit is fine but I think that will come naturally. We’ve had opportunities to open stores in the mall and whatnot but we like our lifestyle. We really don’t want to get big. When you grow and have all sorts of different people running your stores you can’t help but have quality slip a little bit. We emphasize keeping our quality up there and that’s important to us.
Pie in the Sky Bakery
One River Road
Cape Neddick, Maine 03902-7203