Jeanne-ology: Now and Then
Well, it's Thursday and that means it is time for Jeanne-ology. This week, Jeanne compares her experiences of owning both PJP V. 1.0 AND 2.0. (For those of you around here who are new, Peggy Jean's existed in an original iteration from 1994-2004, though a vastly different enterprise than PJP today...mainly because it served both breakfast and lunch and provided table service for customers.) My memories of PJP V. 1.0 are fairly fuzzy, mainly because I was in college and law school and fully immersed in myself because being in your 20s IS THE BEST. I loved what Jeanne had to say here and I hope you do too! - Rebecca
I was thinking about PJP today and thinking what a long journey she has taken. The concept of starting a pie bakery was born out of frustration when I worked a 8 - 5 job and hated every minute of it. There is a strong creative spirit in me and working and taking lunch on a tight schedule is not something I could see myself doing the rest of my life. One of my biggest joys was baking. My mother was a great baker and I would watch her make pie dough using her hands. She would put a huge amount of flour in a big ceramic bowl and start working lard into the flour. Her long fingers would blend the lard and flour together until a bowl of dough would suddenly appear. When the dough was finished, she would taste the raw dough as a final inspection before turning the dough into wonderful pies. It took me years to learn how to make her dough. She never had a recipe and under her watchful eye, she taught me what to look for as far as texture, stickiness and taste. She passed away when I was in my early twenties and I think she would be amused to know that I and her granddaughter have a pie shop. It is also one of the greatest gift she gave to me.
Peggy Jean's Pies opened in March 1994. We offered what pies that Peg and I liked so the menu was small. We baked our pies in glass plates and our customers paid a deposit for the plate. When the customer returned the plate for a refund, we hopefully exchanged them for another pie. We grew by word of mouth which is amazing because we were located behind a used car lot and a gun shop!
There are so many stories to share about those early days, including the time we just loaded the car with pies and drove around Columbia giving out samples and introducing ourselves. Or the day we nearly burned down the shop and we were attacked with flies from the big garbage dump next to our only door which (we had opened it for ventilation). Or the time the University ordered cream pies to be delivered at six p.m. and an hour before delivery, I noticed all the meringues were weeping and fluid dripping out making the pies so sticky! Or the day a customer brought back a cherry pie and said her family found only ONE CHERRY in the whole pie. (the plate was empty when she returned the dish). She wanted a full refund and I had to hold on to Peg's belt because she felt so insulted and became angry. And the day I cried because there was dirty dishes in the sink when we opened and I felt embarrassment for our customers to see those dishes!
That was then and today, while some things are the same, so much has changed. Our menu offers about thirty eight different kinds of pies. No longer in a tiny place, but a complete open concept with the shop. Heck, so much for dirty dishes and flour on the floor! When you walk in now, you see it all. I'm no longer crying silently on the side. I yell out loud and I can't hide my feelings when I see something wrong. In 1994, our customers were shown the front story of owning a pie shop. Today, our customers are interactive with what is going on in the shop. We encourage feedback, ideas and opinions. I prefer the latter. It is amazing what new ideas come our way.
Most notably, I don't cry because of dirty dishes. I am older and realize that real baking causes a mess. I think in the early days I had the image of Betty Crocker with beautiful pies and a spotless kitchen. All evidence was removed that any baking occurred before we open up for the day. It also reminds me of "Leave it to Beaver" series when June cleaned the house and cooked in heals and a string of pearls! How silly!
My daughter Rebecca is my business partner now. I wonder if we could move back time and have her skills with social media, Instagram and such, how much would PJP v. 1.0 would have grown? But that is a moot point because social media didn't exist, the cell phone had not been introduced and l was trying to be too perfect trying to present an unreasonable image based on a TV shows that weren't realistic.
What has not changed is the pie dough recipe and the constant striving to offer the best pies anywhere. How else could we strive for World Pie Domination?