Laura Dandoy Blog

Local Spotlight: Annika Corbin, Owner of I Like Pie in Claremont

Posted by Laura Dandoy on Sep 27, 2019
Laura Dandoy

Since 2012, I Like Pie in Claremont Village has been baking individual-size pies from scratch — and earning rave reviews. We sat down with founder and owner Annika Corbin to discuss her journey as a small business owner, her favorite pie, and what makes the City of Claremont such a special place.

2H6A7944

(Interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Laura Dandoy RE/MAX Resources:

Can you tell me a little bit about the history of your business?

Annika Corbin:

I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I think the inclination is for people to say, “Oh, you must have wanted to open a pie shop your whole life.” And that's just not true. I've loved to bake my whole life, but I went to school for design, not baking. 

I realized I could marry the fact that I really love to bake with my entrepreneurial spirit, and do something creative. And I love to do things that haven’t been done before, so all of those things converged into this concept of opening an individual-size pie shop. 

LDRR:

And what made you choose Claremont for your business?

Annika:

I’m originally from Michigan, and my family and I were living in Washington, D.C. for a while, but prior to that, we had lived here in Claremont, and we fell in love with it. It’s a really nice little town, and there were a lot of qualities that pulled us to come back. 

So we moved back to Claremont specifically to open a pie shop. It's kind of a bizarre way to go about it, but we knew that Claremont is a great community to live in, and would be a great place to have a small business.

2H6A7314

 

LDRR:

What was that like, to make the transition from amateur baker to professional baker?

Annika:

It's kind of an intimidating industry, the restaurant and baking world. What I needed to do was to learn how to commercially bake pies — I didn't need to learn how to commercially bake everything. So I didn't force myself to try and become a professional pastry chef overnight.

I actually went to pie school — and there is such a thing, it's called the American Institute of Baking, and it's a renowned commercial baking institution in Manhattan, Kansas. The course was a few weeks, and it helped me take what I already knew how to do in a home kitchen, and translate that to a commercial baking environment.

LDRR:

Can you talk a bit about the pie festival, and about how your business became part of the fabric of the community?

Annika:

The way that the business has become part of the fabric of the community was so surprising to me. I don't think I expected to be as ingrained in the Claremont community as we are.

We started the pie festival the year we opened. As a new business owner, you’re always looking for avenues for promotion, and I thought that if we could tie what we do into a larger event, then that would be good for us. I just pictured a pie festival, and took it to The Claremont Village Marketing Group, a collaborative group of businesses here in The Claremont Village.

They were willing to support it and help me make it happen. It started out with just a few hundred people showing up on a day in August. Now we do it close to March 14th, Pi Day, and we get 10,000 people. There are baking demos, there are baking contests — it's about artisans, people who make things with their hands, coming out and showing what they do.

Annika_Contest_announcements_50

 

LDRR:

Do you think that I Like Pie and the pie festival would have worked somewhere else, or is there something unique about the community that you're in?

Annika:

I think Claremont has got this sort of magical combination of factors that make it what it is. I might have been able to open the shop someplace else, but I don't know how many towns would have come along for the ride with a festival like this. It was really remarkable how much support I got for it. It’s the magical combination of a very charming little town with a very workable community for an event like the pie festival.

LDRR:

You have a link on your website to a Thrillist article that says, “If you're driving to the west coast on Historic Route 66, just know that the pies from I Like Pie are the true treasures waiting at the end of your journey.” I also took a look at your Yelp page, and you have 4½ stars with over 600 reviews, which is practically unheard of. How does that kind of high praise make you feel?

Annika:

It makes me feel good. It makes my team feel good. We're cautiously optimistic any time something like that happens, because there's always so much more work to do. We have to convince everybody who walks through the door that it's worth it. We don't ever want to forget that the only reason we're here is because we have good customers and a good community that embraces us. Staying true to that is really important.

Front Doors

 

LDRR:

Let’s talk pie. What’s on the menu?

Annika:

We have a seasonal menu, and we have around 12 to 15 flavors at any given time. Our key lime is probably one of our more popular flavors, if not the most popular one. We also have strawberry shortcake, mixed berry Dutch apple... and we have a savory menu, with chicken pot pie — that’s our most popular savory. 

In the spring we have my favorite pie, strawberry rhubarb. I’m from the Midwest, where rhubarb used to grow behind everybody's garage. You can always spot somebody who's from the Midwest, because they know what rhubarb is right away. For some people here, it's kind of novel. And I love that it harkens back to my roots.

Chess resized store

 

LDRR:

I noticed you have some alternative options, like vegan and gluten-free.

Annika:

In Claremont the community is very sensitive to and aware of special dietary needs. I knew within six months of opening that it was really important for us to offer those things. It's almost like if you can’t do those things, you really shouldn’t be in the game.

I didn't put those options out right away because while we had refined what our traditional pies tasted like, I couldn't get the alternatives quite right at first. I wasn't just going to throw something out there just for the sake of having it be vegan or gluten free — it had to taste as close as we could get it to our regular stuff. 

So I experimented with it for quite a while. Anybody can throw something together that excludes certain ingredients, but to make it palatable is something different. We are known for having extraordinarily good specialty items, and it's because I really tinkered with it a lot — and we do still tinker with our specialty formulas if we know that there’s something new on the market that will work better.

Front Sign

 

LDRR:

Are you currently experimenting with anything that you’d like to get on the menu in the future?

Annika:

There are hundreds of things that we tried that just never made it to the to the display case. It's for all kinds of reasons — some of my very favorite pies are ones that we ended up pulling because they just didn't sell. We had a cranberry pear, which was just incredible, and a blackberry sage with a cornmeal crumble that all the employees love and beg for. I'll put it out for us once in a while, but for some reason people just don’t respond to those as much. 

We'll take anything that works well together and throw it into a pie and see if it works well there, too. We’re working on a sweet potato, black bean, and spinach filling that I just absolutely love. But as far as working it into a pie shell, we haven't come up with the right combination so far. So that's still kind of on my radar.

DSC_0010

 

LDRR:

When you’re not working in your shop, is there anything in particular you like to do in Claremont?

Annika:

My favorite way to spend the day if I'm not working would probably be our farmers market, which is on Sunday mornings. I also love brunch at Union on Yale, and I love all the little clothing boutiques. You can come and spend an entire day here, from brunch to shopping to dinner, and a movie afterward, and never get bored. I don’t know of many other small communities where you can do that.

Want a tour of Claremont? Let the Laura Dandoy RE/MAX Resources team show you around town.

 

Topics: Claremont Real Estate, Local Spotlight

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all