Customers travel far and wide for Drive-by Pies
Fran Kolenik closed her West Roxbury bakery a month before Thanksgiving last year because she andher business partner decided to part ways. But even in October, her pie-loving fans were stressing: What were they going to do for Thanksgiving?
“My customers were kind of freaking out,” the former co-owner of BakerBaker said.
So Kolenik prepared 250 pies in her home kitchen and delivered the fresh desserts to customers from Boston to the North Shore.
“There were bags of boxes filling up the house,” said her 19-year-old daughter, Maeve Kolenik. “It was a lot.”
This year, Kolenik has a new bakery, Drive-By Pies Bake Shop on Cypress Street in Brookline, but the task is twice as daunting: she has to bake 550 pies by Thanksgiving eve.
Customers had to call almost a week in advance to place their orders. Kolenik keeps track the old fashioned way: on paper.
“If I live through this year,” she said, “I’m definitely going to have to make it computerized somehow.”
Drive-By Pies offered 13 different flavors, at $18 to $20 apiece, this Thanksgiving season. I nnovative fillings such as pear salted caramel and apple cranberry crumb are on the menu, butthe fan favorites for turkey day lean old school — customers ordered 113 apple pies and 68 pumpkin pies.
“I don’t think people bake like they used to,” she said.
For the pie averse — there are always a few, aren’t there? — Kolenik also offers alternatives forthe Thanksgiving dessert table, including pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin walnut bars.
Growing up in Acton, Kolenik learned everything she knows about baking from her mother
— the shop’s apple pie recipe comes straight from her mom’s index cards. She skipped culinary school for real-world baking experience at a restaurant owned by one of her friends. They opened BakerBaker together in 2012.
After the shop closed, a friend recommended a small commercial space on Cypress Street in Brooklinewith a commercial kitchen that formerly housed a high-end wedding cake shop.
It’s not too much bigger than her home kitchen, but its amenities — a dough sheeter, a size-large oven, and a walk in refrigerator, helped the team move fast and stay organized.
Drive-By Pies opened its doors in April of this year. She worried moving across the city could scare away loyal customers, butbusiness has been booming, she said.
The West Roxbury crowd has followed her here, as have her fans in Reading, Stoneham, Woburn, and even the North Shore.
West Roxbury resident Denise Guerin came to pick up two apple pies Tuesday afternoon with her dog Willie, who used to accompany her on a daily trip to BakerBaker for a scone and a cup of coffee.
A homebaker herself, Guerin said her days of baking pies for Thanksgiving ended when she tried Kolenik’s flaky crust.
“I can only say this because my mother has passed, and won’t be here to read it, but she makes a better pie crust than my mom did,” said Guerin, who still makes the trip to Drive-By Pies once a week for Kolenik’s blueberry scones.
“Her crust is to die for. They’re the pies I would make if I could.”
This week, Kolenik and her small team of friends and family make 64 pies at a time.
They roll out and stack precisely weighed balls of dough to make crust. At her old shop, Kolenik didn’t use precise measurements to bake pies, but she has since nailed down the recipes because of the increase in demand.
The bakers used near 900 apples and 30 gallons of milk for cream pie filling this year. And ingredients aren’t the only thing Kolenik needs more of to tackle the holiday rush.
Newton mother of three Gina Piemonte, Kolenik’s best friend of 20 years, helps out for the holiday alongside Kolenik’s two children, her nephew, and three other employees.
“It’s great,” she said. “It’s everything we would normally have at home, minus the wine.”