FIRST THERE WERE the sisters behind Georgetown Cupcake, with their TV show and the line that forms outside their bakery every day.
But there’s a newer sister act: the three tall, gorgeous, basketball-playing Blakely girls, who opened Pie Sisters bakery, at the foot of Key Bridge in Georgetown, in January 2012. Still in their 30s, the young women grew up in Great Falls, Virginia, and have turned their childhood of making pies with their mom into an enterprise and a destination. One sister has a background in finance, the other had a nuts-and-bolts job in the New York fashion biz. But all the while, there were those childhood pies–and the urge to start their own business.
We recently sat down with Alli Blakely Sydnor (she got married last year) and Erin Blakely to talk about dough.
McK: So, are pies the new cupcakes?
Erin: [deadpan] Yes.
[Erin and Alli crack up.]
Alli: It’s something different.
McK: You say you think you’re examples of the “10,000 hours” rule, that it takes 10,000 hours to be really good at something.
Erin: We had all those years making pies with Mom.
Alli: And we made pies to order for a while. But we had only a couple of recipes to start, and we knew that wasn’t enough for a business.
Erin: So we took over Mom’s kitchen for a few months to develop new pies.
McK: And I see you make savory pies as well as sweet ones.
Erin: Only three savory pies (in addition to the fruit pies and cream pies and pecan pies).
Alli: Chicken pot pie (Mom’s recipe), pulled-pork barbecue (my husband’s North Carolina recipe) and country tomato.
Erin: We can’t do too many–all the baking is done on the premises. We have 1,000 square feet of space and that includes the shop. For Thanksgivings we have had 500 orders. We bake only a day ahead, so we sleep in shifts and keep the two [commercial] double ovens going round the clock, baking 25 pies at a time.
McK: What’s the biggest part of the business?
Alli: Catering and weddings. The going rate for an ordinary wedding cake is $8 a slice, so pies can offer a lot of flexibility at a good price.
Erin: Cuppies translate well for weddings. We developed them [a muffin-size crust with pie filling] because they’re more on-the-go. And now we have Pie Bites, even smaller.
Alli: And I developed a crust mix so people can make a pie at home by just adding water and rolling it out.
Erin: And we sell our pie fillings in jars, too.
McK: Okay, you’re three sisters! How do you work together?
Erin: Divide and conquer.
Alli: I do the crusts, Erin concentrates on the fillings. Cat [the third sister] works for the State Department, so she fills in on weekends.
Erin: She’s the gregarious one; it’s great to have her in the front of the store.
Alli: Yeah, she’s, Ooh try this, or May I get you some coffee?
Erin: We’re not like that; we just make the pies.
Alli: I spend my time covered in flour.
Erin: People ask if we sometimes want to kill each other. Our answer is, We have no time to do that!
Alli: And we’re too tired!
Erin: We can storm out, but we gotta storm right back in.
Alli: It’s a real family business.
McK: Do you know the sisters behind Georgetown Cupcake?
Erin: We reached out to them in the beginning and never heard back.
Alli: And now we know why!
Erin: They’re too busy handling all the things you have to think about with a business–the products, the packaging, the Web site and actually taking care of customers!