First Person Singular: Teresa Velazquez, bakery owner and pie maker
I remember the first day we opened. I had the case lined with pies, and people'd come in and they'd get a blueberry muffin and they'd get a carrot cake cupcake and they'd get a snickerdoodle cookie, and I was like, "But there's pie!" I remember that first week having to throw out all this pie. And so we had to change to fit what the public wanted. Instead of having five or six pies on the shelf, every now or then I'd have one or two pies. I always made sure there was a pie presence.
People are really afraid of [making] pie; they're really afraid of the crust. But once you understand it, it's simple. You just get a feel for it. You've got to use your fingers; you've got to get in there and work that fat into your flour. I've had carpal tunnel surgeries in both hands; it started at a really early age, from all of my hands-on work. Now I'm getting really bad tendinitis in both hands. [But] I don't want to be that person that owns a bakery and doesn't bake. It's very important to me to be in the kitchen and be producing with my staff. If I'm going to be just the business end of things, just a face, I feel like I'm cheating everybody. If someone says, "Oh, did you bake this?" I want to be able to say: "Yeah, I baked it! And, yeah, I have help." I'm in there till 2 or 3 in the morning, baking with my staff.
In the past year, I have sold more pie than I ever thought I'd make here. Yesterday I had five pies on the counter; there was one slice by the end of the day. One huge favorite when it's in season is the strawberry rhubarb, which I always find amazing because most people haven't really ever eaten rhubarb. But I think we're very nostalgic; rhubarb sounds really old-fashioned, and you see "strawberry rhubarb" and it's like, "Wow, I gotta try that." I think pie is an old-fashioned thing. Even when you watch old movies, they go in to eat at the diner, and there's always a slice of pie.
Before this, I used to have a graphic design company. Nine years ago, we were driving home from the beach, and I was saying, "I'm bored." You could see the world of paper starting to decline, and I'm going, "What else am I good at? What else can I do?" And then I thought, "Well, I bake." And we just did it. Baking, it's a very hard life, and we don't make a lot of money doing it, so you have to have a passion for it. Or else you won't survive.
Interview by Amanda Abrams