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All photography © E.E. Berger

 

ABOUT SISTER PIE

Sister Pie is a bright corner bakery in Detroit’s West Village on the east side of town. Each day, we serve pies, cookies, breakfast, and lunch. The menu at Sister Pie is nontraditional in flavor combinations, rustic in execution, and constantly changing to honor the local agriculture of Michigan. We strive to test the limits of our creativity while challenging and pleasing the palates of Sister Pie enthusiasts. We make our pie dough by hand daily and most often communally. We’re a big-hearted bunch and we can’t wait to meet you!

As we grow and change, so does our mission: Sister Pie aims to celebrate the seasons through pie; to provide consistently delicious, thoughtful, and inventive food; to foster a welcoming environment for employees and customers through transparency, community engagement, and education.

OUR STORY... SO FAR

In the fall of 2012, Lisa launched Sister Pie on Thanksgiving out of her parents’ Milford kitchen. She baked and sold forty pies, which may not seem like much now, but it felt like a heck-ton then. As 2013 began, Lisa enrolled in the d:hive Build (now Build Institute) business class, joined FoodLab, and continued to sell pies and cookies via email blasts to family and friends.

When Sister Pie celebrated one year of business, Lisa packed up her rolling pin and moved into a shared commercial kitchen in Hannan House on Woodward. The team grew with the addition of one eager intern, Anji, and she sliced apples for hours so that Sister Pie could bake 150 pies for their second Thanksgiving holiday. In 2014, SP picked up wholesale accounts at local cafes and shops - business was booming! That May, we campaigned for a $5,000 Kiva loan in an effort to take Anji from intern to paid employee. We achieved our goal in less than 48 hours, and Anji started officially working part-time at Sister Pie while maintaining her graphic design job.

In the early summer, we set our eyes on the corner shop at Parker and Kercheval. We began to rent the space and host “Future Sister Pie workdays” - family and friends would join us to help demolish walls and strip wallpaper. During this time, we entered the Hatch Detroit contest and beat out hundreds of applicants to win a $50,000 grant. With the continued help of friends and family, we spent the better part of 2014-into-2015 tirelessly working toward the bakery of our dreams.

In February of 2015, we launched an Indiegogo campaign with a $25,000 fundraising goal and planned a 24-hour dance marathon to accompany it. Anyone who contributed to the campaign got a ticket to the dance party, at which Lisa danced for the full 24 hours straight... from 9pm on a Friday night to 9pm on a Saturday night! After raising $26,593, Lisa admitted it was definitely worth it.

Sister Pie opened on April 24, 2015 to a line out the door and a dozen new employees, and we’ve been hustling ever since. 

During our first few years of growth, we were humbled to receive significant national press and attention. While we know that national expansion has potential for success, we feel that our connection to our city and home is most important. With transparency and accessibility as important factors in our mission, we explored alternate routes to bring our bakery’s voice to the national level.

In 2016, we started offering pie dough classes a couple times a month to eager home bakers traveling near and fear. The response was so positive that we added a hand pie version of the class in 2018, and trained two more staff members (in addition to Lisa) to teach.

That same year, Lisa was approached by Tenspeed Press to write a cookbook. We saw in this opportunity the chance to spread our story to the world. The book features 75 recipes, including many fan favorites, and came out on October 2, 2018 and has sold over 40,000 copies.

WHY PIE?

The upside to pie is two-fold: we get to showcase Michigan’s abundance of farms and local produce (it’s second only to California in agricultural diversity in the country!) and simultaneously we fulfill our growing desire to foster family-style community in the workplace. Pie is for sharing - a delicious way to come together for, truly, any reason at all.

According to the earliest notes written about SP, Lisa dreamt of opening a “future bakery-breakfast and lunch spot-community-focused gathering locale of delicious awesomeness in Detroit.” She was inspired by Tartine and Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, Avalon International Breads in Detroit, Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, and Bakeri in Brooklyn. She wanted to open a good-food/do-good kind of place that emphasized the importance of happy employees and sustainable food-business practices, and maybe even had an Electro-freeze soft-serve machine (still working on that part).

AND WHY SISTER PIE?

The name was inspired by a term of endearment that Lisa and her younger sister, Sarah, share for each other: “What’s up, sister pie? I love you, sister pie!”

 

The concept then grew to be inspired by an image of women (sisters, mothers, grandmothers, friends) gathering around a kitchen counter, pitting cherries, and rolling out pie dough.

BUT IT'S MORE THAN JUST PIE

© Jesse David Green

We have THREE bottom lines, not just one. The “bottom line,” in traditional business-speak, refers to a business’s profit. In this case, the money is the central focus and most important part of the business. All decisions are made with the goal of maximizing profit. But making money is not the only measure by which we define success at Sister Pie.

While making a profit is certainly important here (it’s what keeps our doors open and our staff paid), it is by no means the most important part of what we’re doing. We consider ourselves a triple bottom line business, focusing on employees, environment, and the economy.

PEOPLE

We want to take care of our people; most importantly, our staff. We want to build a business for employees that pays a fair and living wage; provides growth and learning opportunities; fosters a family-style community; embodies Sister Pie’s vision of sisterhood; continues to challenge traditional, profit-driven business practices; and maintains a mentality of continuous learning to keep improving, together, in the ways we provide for and empower staff. We take care of each other.

Outside of Sister Pie, we want to be active members and good neighbors to everyone in and around the West Village, and to be stewards of an inclusive, welcoming, and delicious experience. We aim to hire people from our neighborhood and the city of Detroit. People -- staff, neighbors, customers, pie enthusiasts are what make this business go. 

PLANET

In every way that we can, we want to employ practices that lessen our carbon footprint and reduce our waste and, ultimately, help us take better care of our lived environment. That means we recycle and work hard to connect with partners like Recycle Here to keep expanding our recycling capability. We’ve taken the first steps toward our dream of a robust composting process by working with Midtown Composting to recycle our food scraps. And lastly, we stock our bakery with Michigan GreenSafe packaging products that are compostable and biodegradable, as well as BRP Boxshop bakery boxes made with Sustainable Forestry Initiative lumber fibers, which are collected and reforested utilizing environmentally friendly practices - and are also compostable!

We’re miles and miles away from where we’d like to be, and we’re always looking for more new and creative ways to approach doing business differently.

PROFIT

Like any business, we need to make money to run. To be a profitable, viable business means we can afford to pay employees exceptional living wages; invest in benefits and meaningful staff development opportunities; and continue to deepen our understanding and practices for building a sustainable and exceptional community-minded bakery that delivers a damn fine pie experience like you wouldn’t believe.

 

On top of that, we can participate in the growth of local economy through buying seasonal produce from local farmers, hiring people from the city of Detroit, and investing in one neighborhood.

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