In Fish Creek’s The Settlement Shops, it’s the little white farmhouse with a lovely porch patio and a small foyer inside the front door. Originally, many of the shops were its outbuildings.
But what a surprise for visitors and locals alike to enter in to discover the ambrosial taste of a huge variety of pies. A hostess with a generous tray of cookie-like pie crust samples circulates among the crowd.
Cherry Pie tops the best seller list here, closely followed by Apple and its cousins Apple Caramel-Walnut and other great apple combos. Then there’s the Threeberry Pie (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry), which is baked in three layers. Strawberry-Rhubarb wins raves too.
Visiting with Dave Lea, Sweetie Pie’s congenial owner (along with his wife Renny and partners Cathy and Larry Mazurek), we took a tour of the modest premises, the former home of Renny’s Aunt Elsie and Uncle Andy, who later bought what was to become the White Gull Inn. Renny’s mother Fran Miller (a gourmet cook and also an accomplished accordion player and entertainer) was the star at the Inn during the early 1960s. In fact, we had the pleasure of hearing the very lovely 99-year-old Fran play us some old songs -- Stardust, the Darktown Strutters’ Ball (I’ll be down to get you in a taxi, honey…), and the Beer Barrell Polka. What a gal!
Dave says that the freezers’ limited shelf space has stifled the notion to create yet more varieties of pie. Although more than 30 selections would seem to be sufficient (there’s even a Packer pie; it’s green and gold!). Of course there are the 5-inch “cutie pies,” and pie is also sold by the slice. Ice cream is an option, too.
The raw fruits are purchased frozen, but in single pieces, and the thickening includes tapioca. It’s all hand made; the only “machinery” being a unit that cuts in the butter and shortening and then a wrapping machine that covers the pies.
When we asked Dave about the best thing in his business, he didn’t hesitate at all. “It’s working with this great crew; we’ve had wonderful luck with people. And there’s a lot to learn. We code the pies with colored toothpicks as they bake so they can be identified.” The company’s index cards that held data on members of the Bakers Dozen Club finally pushed off the edge of the desk, but now it’s all computerized.
The biggest challenge, according to Dave, is moving the entire business into the future. He says, “We could have another location and just sell slices.” But the changes would require so much organization that it’s not presently an option. Sweetie Pies does “Road Trips” each year where frozen pies are delivered to several sites in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas.
We tried the apple pie, and I make a good apple pie myself, but this was so delicious, with a rich crisp crust (it rises high, they call it mile-high pie) and a decidedly, but delicately spiced, apple mixture that was simply light years away from supermarket pies which tend to have a “glop” factor.
What else? Well there’s the annual rolling pin design contest (please see the website). And the store sells Kaap’s Chocolates and an array of gifts and T-shirts. How about coffee for just a dollar? Pies can be shipped frozen via FedEx and special orders may be placed as well. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the shop is open nine to five every day. Stop in to say Hi to Great Pie.
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Directions to Sweetie Pies:
9106 Wisconsin 42, Fish Creek, WI 54212 -- (920) 868-2743
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