With over 40,000 followers on Instagram alone, Tiny Pies proves their taste is big, though their pies may be little. This is the story of how a small business from Austin took the nation by storm.
Tiny Pies Idea Is Born
Tiny Pies is a creative endeavor started by the mother-daughter duo of Kit Seay and Amanda Bates back in 2011. The idea of making hand-held pies came from Bates’ son. He loved taking a slice of pie to school, but it always got too messy. “One day he tossed out an idea: ‘Why don’t you come up with something I can eat with my hand?’ We instantly knew it was a really good idea,” Bates explained.
The idea turned into days spent in the kitchen playing around with recipes and testing flavors. Baking together wasn’t new for the pair. Bates baked with her mom for as long as she can remember. And Seay, in turn, used to bake with her own mom.
They started small by taking 75 pies to a farmer’s market, where they sold out on the very first day. From there, the endeavor gained momentum like a snowball. One farmer’s market turned into five markets per week in less than a year. An online shop and catering service followed. The first brick and mortar store was opened on Burnet Road in March 2014, and last year a second location was added on South Lamar Boulevard.
In 2012, when physical stores were only in the idea stage, Bates received an unexpected call. “I was working from home and I got a phone call. The woman said: ‘Hi, this is so-and-so from Oprah Magazine. Would you like to send us your product?’ And I just went, ‘Aha…’ She started talking, and I was jumping up and down! I was so excited!”
The minute Tiny Pies made it onto the O List, their little online store blew up. Foodies across the nation wanted to try these pies, order them for a wedding or send them as a gift.
Bates says she never truly understood how Oprah’s staff found out about them, but likely “someone from Oprah Magazine was in Austin for a wedding and tried the pies at the reception.”
Recipes and Ingredients
There is something special about Tiny Pies, and it’s not only the innovative size of their pastries. It’s the feeling of enjoying a homemade pie like your grandmother used to make. The masterpiece of a pie crust is actually made according to Bates’ great-grandmother’s recipe. So is the pecan pie. By now, many of the items on the menu are developed by Bates herself and her staff, but family traditions are at the core of the business.
Apart from hand-held pies, the company makes teeny-tinies (even smaller savory pies), tiny empanadas that can be served as appetizers and Mason jar pies you can bake at home after removing the packaging.
The dough and filling for every pie are made from scratch. Most ingredients are sourced locally to support Texas farms. That’s why the menu changes seasonally. “It’s very labor-intensive, but we are never going to do a short-cut here. It will not taste the same. And if it doesn’t taste the same, then why do it?”
Those aren’t just words. Bates and Seay were approached by a nation-wide chain to place their pies in over 400 supermarkets around the country. They declined the offer simply because they didn’t want to compromise the taste by changing the recipe and making pies more shelf-stable.
The Business of Making People Happy
There’s no better way to show your love and care than with a freshly baked pie. It revives memories of childhood, family and, most importantly, home. “To me, pie is synonymous with the word ‘home.’ You feel cozy and taken care of when you eat it,” Bates shared. “On grey and rainy days, we are really busy here. I think it’s because people want to feel nurtured.”
Making people happy is the best job there is. “We are in a really good business, in a happy business. On Thanksgiving Day, we sit at our table thinking of all the families around the country that are enjoying our pies. It’s nice to be a part of those family memories. That’s what makes me want to do it,” Bates confessed.
March 14 marks Pi Day, the celebration of the mathematical constant π, commonly approximated as 3.14 (hence the date of celebration). To go with the wordplay, many people celebrate the day by eating pie. For Tiny Pies, this is one of the busiest days of the year, on par with Thanksgiving. So order your pies early!
5035 Burnet Road and 2032 South Lamar Blvd. – Website
@thefoodiemiles wants to know:
What’s your favorite pie flavor?