The Blackbird Baking Company of Maine doesn’t have a retail space. They don’t even have a website. But what this “virtual bakery” does have is a very loyal following, which grows each day organically on Facebook. The process for shopping for your pie is simple: follow the Blackbird Baking Company on Facebook, and you’ll get sent their weekly menu, since the availability of certain pies changes based on the season. Send an email (with a couple of days notice), and your pie or other goodies will be delivered to your door. How’s business so far? We sat down with Stacy, the owner of the Blackbird Baking Company, for a quick question-and-answer session:
- Was your mother or grandmother a pie-maker? How did you learn to bake, and why pies?
My paternal grandmother was an excellent cook and pie- maker extraordinaire. Unfortunately, she only made them around the holidays and left us longing for more! My great-grandmother was also a tremendous pie-maker especially when it came to raspberry pies. She only made pie in the summer when the berries were ripe and fleeting. It seems my whole childhood was spent waiting for someone to make me pie! Sadly, I was only interested in eating pies, not making them so I never learned the technique from my grandmothers. Now I’m spending part of my adulthood trying to replicate the pies I loved as a child. And so the struggle continues!
- Do you maintain a retail store and bake full-time, or is Blackbird Baking Company strictly a “straight from the kitchen,” after-hours endeavor for you? Are there advantages or disadvantages to this approach?
I do not have a retail shop since this is strictly a “straight from my kitchen” enterprise filling my “afterhours.” I like to refer to Blackbird Baking Company as a “virtual bakery” all orders and business are conducted through e-mail and Facebook. It’s a great, convenient system for the customer. A customer can place an order by e-mail, Facebook or phone from their home, office or iPhone and – voila! – within 48 hours a home-baked pie, or other yummy treat, arrives at your doorstep! The disadvantage, of course, is that there is only one of me and one very small kitchen, so I cannot accommodate the same volume of orders as a commercial kitchen. Also, the home bakery license limits the types of products I can produce and sell. Sadly, I’m restricted from selling cream pies ( it’s OK to cry, I did).
- Are Maine berries really better than other states’ fruits?
I couldn’t say with any real authority if Maine fruits are better than the fruit of other states; but since I’m a Mainer and proud of it, I’ll let hubris takeover, ignore any facts and say : YES. All kidding aside, I think any time you can access local, in season fruits and vegetables it’s bound to taste better. Pies are such a simple form of food, made with such humble ingredients that the quality of those ingredients needs to be excellent. Very little tops ripe Maine blueberries or juicy, July strawberries, which is why I try to use as much local fruit as possible.
- What are your feelings on savory pies? Is this something you offer, or plan to offer?
I love savory pies! I hope indeed to sell them. First, however I must check with the licensing gods to make sure I’m in compliance.
- Southern Maine is very appreciative of small business; how have you been supported by the community?
My community has been wonderfully supportive! From friends and colleagues to the Department of Agriculture inspector, people have offered me great advice and ideas. I’m almost overwhelmed with the creative ideas sent my way.
- Who is your dream customer?
My dream customer is the foodie who may often indulge in adventurous, gourmet meals, but at the end of the day still appreciates a really great slice of pie and hot cup of coffee.
- Can you pinpoint a moment where you knew Blackbird Baking was going to work?
I think the turning point for me was the third week of business. Despite great support from many, many people, the first two weeks were very slow and I began to wonder if I’d mistook encouragement for promises of business. But during the third week, the orders rolled in and slammed me against the wall! At that point I began to think “OK, maybe this is going to work out after all.”
- Naked or ala mode?
Oh, the most difficult question of them all! I confess – for most of my life I’ve been an a la mode girl through and through. But, maybe because age has mellowed me or I’ve discovered the joys of a rocking good pie crust, I now have to say – it’s naked all the way.
- Anything else you want people to know?
You can reach Blackbird Baking Company at firstname.lastname@example.org. Menus are posted on Facebook and are sent out via a client e-mail list. While pies are our specialty, you can also order muffins, quickbreads, cakes, granola, etc. The menu changes approximately every two weeks.
But what about the pies? We took delivery of our first order today, and were blown away. We ordered a dozen blueberry muffins for $6, and planned to freeze them, because we weren’t sure how quickly we could get through a dozen muffins. Fewer are going to end up in the freezer than we thought, though, because these aren’t the muffins we’ve grown used to. As opposed to store bought or muffin mixes, which are sickeningly sweet, covered in sugar, and the size of a softball, the Blackbird Baking Company muffins have more in common with a scone, at least in terms of subtlety of flavor. They are human being-sized, and not too sweet, with big, fat, bursty blueberries scattered throughout. They are perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning, and won’t leave you with a nasty 10AM sugar crash.
If the muffins were good, the pie can only be described as extraordinary. We chose the special seasonal raspberry pie (for $20, more than most pies, which are $15), and it may as well have been the first pie we ever tasted. Again, the sugary sweetness was kept under control, and the incredibly bright, tart raspberries were allowed to shine. Packed into a crust that had more in common with a Danish butter cookie than a pie crust, and topped with a healthy scoop of Gifford’s vanilla ice cream, it was about as close to dessert perfection as I have come.
Stacy and her Blackbird Baking Company are cranking out some delicious desserts, at a fair price, once you see what a labor of love these pies are. Her home delivery makes the previously daunting task of “getting pie into your mouth” a snap, and you’ve got to admire her approach: never has the pie business been quite so high-tech. The Blackbird Baking Company can count us among their regular customers, and we think you’ll love them, too.