Pie is therapeutic. Of this, I am certain.
I felt a connection with Lori Rae, the owner of Fork & Crust Pie Company, even before I met her. Pie found her as it found me years ago.
When my grandfather passed away and my Grandma Lottie was left widowed on their farm, our family set to the great task of helping her move to a newer smaller place in town. This took time. My grandma was tiny, but a tough cookie, and diligently dismantled what their lives had accumulated together to make the move. If it was morning when I went out to help her, I noticed she was always wearing my Grandpa’s pajama top as a nightgown. I didn’t know what to say.
So I baked for her.
Mostly I made deep dish apple crumb pies. My great Aunt Helen had gnarly trees in her yard that produced the best-ever apples for baking. If you tried to eat them raw they were dry, crisp to the point of tough, with a cheek-aching sour and bitter bite. But in a pie, magic. A wild wind storm would eventually take out those trees, but before that, those ugly apples in their crust-cradled sandbox of brown sugar, with cinnamon and butter and flour, together, were the absolute best medicine.
Pie and I, we’re family.
Lori Rae, a mother of four, spent her life raising her kids and cooking up a storm to keep the machine runnin’. Her great grandmother had had a pie business in Kansas, and though some of those recipes were in her baking rotation, pie wasn’t a focus. Her kids’ activities and sports were. But after her daughter, who had dreams of playing soccer at college was diagnosed with a heart condition, what was once their favorite family pastime, was then a reminder of the real uncertainties they were facing. Weekend games became a thing of the past, and traveling to see doctors and specialists replaced them.
Lori tells me, “Some time after her diagnosis, my daughter and I found ourselves spending a lazy afternoon couch surfing. We were flipping through the channels in a desperate search for something to watch when we landed on a cooking show. The host was hand-pitting cherries for a pie… I didn’t realize it then, but that moment would go on to change my life.” She tears up, “It was a really emotional time for us because of what we were dealing with and what she was going through. I mean, we don’t even watch TV, but for some reason, that day, my daughter saw it, and it woke something up in her. That was the thing that brought her out of the despair. Making pie made her happy. So we kept on baking.”
With their new hobby lightening things up for the family, Lori even started selling pies at a local farmers’ market. They sold out regularly, word of mouth did its due diligence, and requests for more access rolled in until they were selling an astonishing number out of various places beyond the market and direct to customer. In NWA she got a firm footing at Euna Mae’s in Springdale, but as orders for pie continued to pile up, the whirlwind and momentum landed her in their current space in Rogers.
The Fork & Crust Pie Company finally had a home all their own. It has been there now, tucked out of sight in an unexpected wooded space, on the end of a strip of shops, in the Village On the Creeks shopping center for a few months. If the location description sounds confusing; admittedly, it is. The spot has proven difficult to find for many, but once you make your way in you will never forget it. This place is the treasure you never knew you were hunting for.
With furniture and finishings made by a local artisan and designer, Zach Lee from Urban Revival Design, the shop is a bit more chic than shabby, incredibly cheerful and earthy to boot. Have your pie at a sunny table inside, or enjoy it on the comfy patio, with lovely views from every seat, with the wafting sweet baking scents saturating the air inside and out.
The pie itself is too good – descriptions don’t do it justice. My absolute favorite is the Salty Honey: a custardy sticky filling full of local honey from Vanzant Farms, and finished with sea salt to make it absolutely mouthwatering. The list of subsequent favorites stretches on and on from homemade whipped cream cream pies, to holiday specialties, to classics, and even fun riffs on other desserts made into pie; think, carrot cake pie.
They offer quiche featuring veggies plucked from the farmers’ markets each week and local meats. Pure Joy ice cream from down the road in Siloam Springs sits in its own cute case, and Onyx coffee is available as a perfect compliment. Every pie I tried and each one we discussed has thoughtful details about them and often very clever additions. Lori may not be professionally trained but her pie genius and palate shines in each approach to every recipe. From the giant gob of thick caramel added to the apple pie before baking, to the quirky addition of bacon to the whiskey pecan, her inventive spirit and passion is tasted in every bite. I even saw a pie version of funfetti cake pop up on their Facebook page recently. They make it all available by the slice, whole (best to order ahead), or even create your own pie by choosing several slices to make a sort of “United Nations of Pie” pie!
“I never would have guessed how therapeutic making that pie would be for both of us. It gave us something new to focus on, and as we watched our creation bake in the oven, we shared a feeling that, somehow, everything was going to be okay. From that day forward, pie became a huge part of the healing process for our family.”
Lori says that though they never expected such an incredible response to their pies, they have no intention of slowing things down and are thrilled with all the support and love they’ve received from the community. She’s secured a space in Fayetteville for a second shop and wishes she could find the perfect location near the Bentonville square. Her gentle way and her cheerful smile only compliment her obvious drive and dedication to her business and family. She reminds me very much of another tough cookie I knew once.
I delivered pies to my grandma every week for a long time during that move. Those pie pans carried all the words I couldn’t find, and all the support I could fit in a single crust (when it wasn’t a double crust pie), and my Grandma got through. Even if, occasionally, it was one slice at a time.
Fork & Crust Pie Co.
5208 Village Pkwy, Ste 11
Open: Mon – Fri 10 am – 6 pm; Sat 11 am – 4 pm