CurvyMama Takes Her Pies to Market

What a day CurvyMama had at her very first farmer’s market!

It was more of a vendors’ market than a farmer’s market, actually. The DC Grey Market is designed to give fledgling vendors like me some exposure to help us build a customer base.  Maya Robinson, the enterprising young woman who does this on the side, when she’s not at her dayjob as an accountant, makes sure that she saves space for new merchants in her periodic pop-up market. So that was how I got the chance to sell my pies to the public today, alongside vendors selling stromboli, pulled pork, homemade sausage and pickles, cookies, cupcakes-on-a-stick, gluten-free cupcakes, and other goodies.

We had a great day, too. We took 24 pies to market and returned home with only two. About a half-dozen pies were cut up for teensy tastes, and the rest were sold whole or in slices. Our cherry lattice-top was a runaway best seller, followed by Aztec chocolate chess, pecan with Jack Daniels vanilla, and sweet potato. We met dozens of really interesting, friendly people, both among our customers and our fellow vendors, and we gave out tons of business cards. I’m finally home, unpacked, and happy and a little tired from our big adventure.

Getting ready for this event consumed much of my energy for the week leading to the market. As a first-timer, I had so much to plan and do; I kept innumerable little lists of things I had to remember to take with me (teensy cupcake papers for tastes, plates for slices, yellow CurvyMama boxes for whole pies; scissors, string, stickers, cutting boards, little clips to hold signs showing the names of pies … ), and ran around from place to place buying things I needed (from a locking cash box to a big white canopy). In the process, CurvyMama officially started accepting credit cards, thanks to the mind-blowing simplicity of the Square card reader, an adorable device that plugs into your smartphone and lets you swipe the cards, without paying any monthly membership fee, just a straight percentage of sales.

My dear friend Yun, who was already serving with distinction as CurvyMama’s official Chief Pie Eater, made herself indispensable in new ways, as consultant, troubleshooter, errand-runner all week long, and as assistant par excellence on the big day. She even partnered with my younger daughter, Sweetie Pie Sara’s namesake, to create customized CurvyMama Pies aprons for market day. Awesome! Some deft management of the cash box and pie-box assembly by Legal Pie, right in the busiest part of our afternoon, also made things immensely easier.

The final countdown to market started with a trial run of the canopy.

We were a little concerned that it was absurdly low, and would force everyone to duck to get under it…

… until we realized that we hadn’t extended the legs. Once we figured that part out, we knew everything would be fine, and we’d be able to put that canopy up in a snap.

With that conquered, I moved on to prep the 30 pie crusts that I would need. I made dough disks and stockpiled them in the refrigerator. Then came Friday: rolling them out, and plating and freezing them.

They started going into the oven, in groups of six, early Saturday morning.

An unanticipated hitch: all the calculating I had to do. I hadn’t had to scale up this high before, except last Thanksgiving, when I made many multiples of pumpkin and pecan pies. This time, making six each of four kinds of pie, I had to do stuff like figure out how much six servings of 5 2/3 tablespoons was, so I didn’t have to measure 5 2/3 tablespoons over and over and over. So out came the pad, pen and calculator.

Then there were the dishes. Four huge rounds of them, as I finished each set of six pies.

But little by little, the pies started marching out of the oven, six by six, looking and smelling amazing. So cool to watch them pile up on the tables and counters!

Out come the pecan…

… and then they’re joined by the Aztec chocolate chess…

I did begin to worry, though, that I’d never be able to get all the stuff I needed into my pie-mobile.

How the hell was I going to fit 24 pies in my Honda CR-V?

I was saved by a classmate from my pastry techniques class at L’Academie de Cuisine. Nate, a lovely gentleman who runs a local bakery, gave me four of those big, square plastic bread racks that you see stacked behind grocery stores. Nothing could have been more perfect for carrying pies.

Having prepped most of the crusts Friday, I baked for most of the day Saturday. (Saturday evening was for wine-drinking. Ya gotta give me that, right?) Then Sunday morning rolled around and we got to packing up the car.

Miracle of miracles, everything fit in one car–the four racks of pies, the canopy, the two folding tables, CurvyMama Pies poster and tripod, and assorted bags of domed dishes and tons of other stuff. And it only took 10 minutes to load. So there we were, Yun and me, staring at each other at 8:15 a.m., saying what should we do now? We’re set to go. So of course we decided to head downtown early and find a place to have breakfast.

We got down there and cruised by the market site, the back parking lot of a little arts collective in the Howard University neighborhood. And we saw, well, a teensy little lot that couldn’t possibly, we thought, accommodate 25 vendors comfortably. Ugh. What to do? Not much. We grabbed a great breakfast at a Southern-style diner and returned, ready to pack our stuff in.

One section of the parking lot where DC Grey Market set up.

Everything turned out great, actually. We were among the first to set up, and had plenty of time to cut up samples and display our pies nicely in the shade of our canopy. We made friends with our neighbors, the stromboli ladies and the lollipop cupcake gals (who also had racy little cupcakes-on-a-stick shaped like men’s and women’s sexy parts). Then customers started pouring in, oooh-ing and aaahh-ing over our pie samples. The best part of the whole day: watching people’s faces go all joyful and yummalicious over the pies they were tasting. To paraphrase American Express, selling lots of pies: Great. Seeing those faces? Priceless.

After the initial two-hour rush had eased…

We learned a lot today. Like: probably a good idea to bring a trashcan. With all the micro-level planning we did, we plum forgot the damn trashcan. Also: good idea to weight the legs of your canopy. With one big gust on this breezy day, our canopy blew straight into the air and dig two full somersaults over other vendors’ booths. I was chatting with the Mexican-food gals from California when this happened; I heard startled voices rising, and turned to look, and there was our canopy, flipping through the air, with merchants in many apron designs–including Yun–chasing it. I dashed over there to help catch it, and we all dragged it back into position. This kind of stuff just doesn’t happen in a normal day at the office. Such a nice change of pace!! 🙂

About three hours into the market, Maya told us that 750 people had already come through the gates. I’m not sure what the final count was, but it was a well-attended market. We sold out of nearly everything, so that was terrific!

Then it was time to pack out; all the cars lined up in the alley outside the market, and we vendors dragged what remained of our merchandise–and our sticky equipment and grimy, sticky selves–back home again.

A wonderful day: lots of camaraderie, interesting people and food-tasting, a welcome adventure, lots of hard work, and lots of satisfaction. Looking forward to CurvyMama’s next market!

  1. David Hoff
    I'd like to volunteer to be your deputy assistant chief pie taster. Let me know when I'm needed.
  2. CurvyMama Pies
    That job's already taken, Dave! Why, are things getting a bit dull working for Arne? ;-)
  3. melissaiscooking
    Wow! Congratulations! Looks like you had a wonderful day.
  4. j mcknight
    I will volunteer to be International Quality Control Inspector, Canadian Branch and Pie Swag Research Assistant.
  5. CurvyMama Pies
    Thanks, Melissa! It was so much fun!
  6. CurvyMama Pies
    That sounds like a plan. Welcome to the crew!
  7. Matthew Cibellis (@mcibellis)
    Excellent blog post...great story. Loved the (unintended) "Fiddler on the Roof" reference. Miracle of miracles...
  8. sara
    "pie swag" may be a new favorite phrase.... so wonderful to read this post mama and so sorry i missed the market!!!