Talk To Me…

Jeanne and I will often stop what we are doing during the day and say “well, talk to me” to each other…even though we’ve been talking about everything and nothing with each other for most of the day.  It is sort of this interesting phenomena we’ve developed with each other of having a lot of chatter but very limited time for meaningful conversation.  Here is a glimpse of the topics covered in conversation today…

  1. Butter is $4.28 a pound at Hyvee this week.  That is almost $1.50 more a pound than just a few weeks ago.  And unless we are suffering from some sort of national butter shortage that I didn’t get the memo about, I would suggest that the butter manufacturers are creating a national butter collusion.  And it needs to stop.
  2. Every person that shows up at PJP Buttonwood with a Doormail coupon for $5 off two nine-inch PJP pies is subject to intense and directed psychological profiling by Jeanne.  She demands to know how the person feels about Doormail and if the person knew about PJP Buttonwood prior to Doormail and if the coupon was incentive to visit the store.  I would guess she knows more about the psychology behind Doormail than the people who make Doormail.
  3. We keep making Brown Butter Chess pie and selling out of Brown Butter Chess pie.  If you aren’t familiar, chess pie is an exceptionally basic pie recipe made from readily available ingredients, like butter, sugar, and eggs.  In the brown butter variation on chess pie, you heat the butter until it almost burns…creating this insanely warm and nutty flavor.  Two people today said it has become their most favorite pie ever.
  4. I’m sorta in love with Angus and Julia Stone…listen to them on Spotify and you will be as well.
  5. We are offering 10% off all Thanksgiving pie orders through next Friday, October 31st.  Our goal is to bake 2,000 pies in the three days prior to Thanksgiving.  As of right now, we have about 100 orders.  I have no idea if that is on target to our goals, off target to our goals, or who really cares because 2,000 is an insane amount of pie.  We both do better with a goal in mind and so we picked 2,000 pies.  And that is how that happened.
  6. I just saw that Small Business Saturday is planned for November 29th, which is the Saturday immediately following our 2,000 pie extravaganza.  We would like to plan something fun, but we will probably still be laying on the floor and recovering.  Here is a better idea…support small business and shop local every day.
  7. Jeanne is a little bit obsessed with the King’s Daughters Festival.  I could tell her that we have  two interviews and a photo shoot tomorrow and she would say to me “and we are doing the King’s Daughters festival next month and we don’t have a plan!”.  I could tell her that we have a lot of orders for Saturday morning and she would say to me “and we are doing the King’s Daughters festival next month and we don’t have a plan!”.  I could tell her that my arm was hanging off my body by a tendon and she would say “and we are doing the King’s Daughters festival next month and we don’t have a plan!”.   For someone who loves the last minute, taking PJP on the road is giving her all the feelings.
  8. Jeanne has an entire theory that Twitter is just some massive pyramid scheme.  Once she explained it all to me, she actually made sense.  She also convinced me for a short time in 1987 that Elvis was still alive, so take it for whatever it is worth.
  9. Coffee is coming to PJP.  It will be basic coffee because I can’t have the knowledge of how to make a mocha or I would likely just bleed non-fat milk and chocolate syrup.  I’ll tell you now  that I put about six Splendas in my basic coffee, so keep your judgment to yourself.  PJP will be a judgment-free coffee zone.  You are welcome.
  10. Our Ecolab guy reported back to our food broker person that he didn’t think we liked him very much.  He may have outrageous demands for the purchasing of unneeded chemicals, but he is perceptive.  So there is that.

If you are interested in hanging out with us tomorrow night and eating pie, drinking cocktails, and discussing any of the above items, we do still have five tickets left for our #pieandbooze event starting at 7 pm.  You’ll learn to bake your very own apple pie and make the paired cocktail from Dogmaster Distillery.  And Jeanne will probably remind you that we are doing the King’s Daughters festival next month.  And that we don’t have a plan.

World Pie Domination

I feel like I’m finally recovering from an insanely busy PJP weekend…and it is 10:01 on Tuesday night.  On Saturday, we supplied 300 tarts for a wedding AND 177 nine-inch pies for the Rock Bridge Elementary Chicken BBQ.  And as you might have seen on Facebook, Jeanne and I made 56 cherry pies before the sun even rose over Columbia on Saturday morning.

After we delivered the last of the pies to Rock Bridge Elementary, Team PJP went to lunch together and over margaritas, chips, and salsa, Behind-The-Scenes-Tech Guru Jason commented that we should endeavor to make every weekend as busy as that particular day.  Specifically, we should work for the opportunity to fill exceptionally large orders, like 177 pies for one account, on a weekly basis.

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As we pass the six-month mark of PJP V. 2.0, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past week thinking about our growth.  How do we maintain a fully stocked retail location, yet pursue the lucrative large accounts that expose our product to a mass market?  In short, how do we grow, yet maintain our product…and our sanity?  In short, how exactly does one achieve World Pie Domination?

I found myself pondering all these thoughts late on Sunday night and I actually decided to go down the Google rabbit hole because short of going to lay on Stan Kroenke’s couch and asking him to impart all his wisdom upon me, I wasn’t sure who to seek out with all the thoughts on my mind.  (Plus, Silent Stan would probably just suggest charging triple net rent and buying a sports team in my spare time.)  And look, here is the only sound advice in this blog post tonight…do not Google “how to grow a small business” unless you want links to magazine articles that seem to all impart the same advice OR have your Facebook feed flooded with ads for subprime lenders to small businesses.  Most Entrepreneur.com articles were either poorly written or authored by someone with a stake in the game, like a commercial loan officer or someone who made millions after appearing on Shark Tank.

With no obvious help from the Internet, I decided to change my approach and simply just lay still and think about how to grow PJP.  Sure, we could likely add more wholesale accounts, but we would need a delivery truck and a driver (that isn’t me) to get the product there.  We can’t really afford a truck until we have more revenue, and that is why we need more wholesale accounts in the first place.  And we can’t achieve World Pie Domination if it is all happening in Columbia (though, I do fully support Operation:  Columbia Pie Domination).  We need to spread our exposure to different markets in new ways.  Which brings me back to needing a truck and a driver annnnnnndddddd…I’m making myself crazy.

And so is this how it works for the average business owner?  Do we all feel pressure and drive to succeed and grow…but very rarely ever feel like we have a direct path to do so?  I kept thinking that I would arrive at some state of nirvana with all my data and Tweets and Facebook statuses and emails and texts and in a perfect storm, I would have all the answers and well then, everything would be easy.  As easy as pie.  (Pun fully intended).

But didn’t John Lennon say that the more we see, the less we know?  Or maybe it was The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I should probably check Google…

 

 

 

 

 

 

180 Days.

Today marks 180 days at PJP Buttonwood.  And 180 days – six months – feels substantial.  Here is what we’ve learned so far…

  1. We do, in fact, know more about what we are doing at PJP Buttonwood on our 180th day than our very first day.  We’ve learned that this journey is often two steps forward and one step back and we are okay with that.
  2. We know how to be tired, super tired, beyond tired, and on-the-verge-of-tears tired.  Today I accidentally put dirty dishes in the refrigerator instead of the sink and Jeanne spent 10 minutes looking for her glasses to only find them on her head.  I think that is an entirely new category of tired.
  3. On Wednesday, Jeanne and I yelled at each other.  On Thursday, she made me laugh so hard that my stomach is still sore.  I think we have the perfect relationship.
  4. Once a week, we have our front windows professionally cleaned.  It tends to mesmerize us both and on occasion, we allow ourselves to fantasize what having our floors professionally cleaned might be like.  We are girls who dare to dream while we shop-vac.
  5. I think we run out of one key item a week at PJP Buttonwood.  Over the course of this month, it has been baby pie boxes, PJP stickers, and menu cards.  We went to buy donuts for Team PJP at Hyvee earlier this week and when we couldn’t locate boxes for the donuts, I actually hoped they were completely out so I didn’t feel so bad about my procurement shortcomings.  Turned out they had plenty more boxes in the back.  Of course they did.
  6. I’m still righteously indignant about our dishwasher situation.  While you’ve probably gathered that I’m snarky and sarcastic, please note that I’m also really good at holding a grudge.  We ordered some pie box stickers from Ecolab last week to test them out and now that they’ve arrived, we realize the stickers are pretty awesome and pretty cheap.  Too bad I’ll never order any more again due to Ecolab’s stance on mandatory chemical purchases.
  7. Jeanne and I used to spend the entire day lunching, having wine, and shopping.  Recently, we were able to leave the shop at the same time together and go to Sam’s.  AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.  We bought Maker’s Mark and did recognizance on the pies in the Sam’s bakery.  And looked at flashing neon “OPEN” signs and discussed if we needed one and how that impacted our vibe.  Oh, and we ate some cookies too.
  8. In September, our top selling pies were 1) Chocolate Bourbon Pecan, 2) Dutch Apple, and 3P Peach Praline.  Chocolate Bourbon Pecan has been number one seller since the opening of PJP Buttonwood.  Chicken pot pies made a strong showing at number four in total sales…watch out, Marie Callender and Colonel Sanders, we are coming for you…
  9. The girls at Caribou have started making our coffee as soon as they see us pull into the parking lot.   Well played, Caribou.  Well played indeed.
  10. We are the luckiest girls ever.

We have the best customers ever.  We know our 180 days are only because of your support, encouragement, and friendship.  Thank you for hanging on with us to World Pie Domination…

Big Mistake. Big. Huge.

Can I start by telling you that I’ve spent most of my day being righteously indignant about our commercial dishwasher?

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If you aren’t familiar, we rent a dishwasher from Ecolab for $99.37 a month and are at our halfway point of our first annual contract for services.  In short, Ecolab provides the machine and promises to fix it if it breaks (they also retain full ownership of the machine).  We are responsible only for buying the various chemicals that the machine requires to wash the dishes.  And for digging out all the teaspoons that the machine tries to eat during the washing process.

Not long ago, I mentioned on the blog that we received a bill for $78.17 from Ecolab and the bill stated “MINIMUM PURCHASE NOT FULFILLED”.  When we called Ecolab to ask what that meant exactly, the customer service rep told us that we were required to buy so much chemical per month and we had to pay for the minimum amount of chemicals a month whether we needed them or not.  I rolled my eyes and threw the bill in the trash.  And then I did it again the next month.  And the next.  Because that business model?  Well, it is stupid.  Maybe I should just charge all our customers for all the pie I think they should be eating each month whether they want it or not.

So, when our Ecolab rep stopped by today to discuss our unpaid bill of $78.17×3, we launched into our reasons of why we have no immediate plans to mail a check.  In no particular order:

  1. No one told us we had to buy $78 worth of chemicals a month;
  2. $99 for machine rental plus $78 for chemicals PER MONTH is insane for any small business;
  3. We DON’T ACTUALLY NEED ANY CHEMICALS AT THIS TIME (shouting fully intended);
  4. Buying mass quantities of dishwashing cleansers and rinsing agents (at Ecolab’s suggestion) and storing them at PJP Buttonwood until we need them is not in the master plan.  Because it is ridiculous and also because our space is 1,000 square feet and if I’m storing anything, it is pie boxes and pie tins, not chemicals I’ll need in 12 or 14 months for a persnickety dishwasher.

Ecolab’s response?  We either pay the bill and get the chemicals each month or pay the bill each month and choose to not get the chemicals delivered.  But we are paying either way.  Whichever we chose, the final word was that we should accept our fate as a business that will be paying for something that we have no need for and no immediate plans to use.  The reasoning behind their completely flawed logic?  This would keep us from purchasing our chemicals at Wal-Mart.  Uhhhh…

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As you can guess, nothing about the conversation went well and I stewed around for the better part of my day.  What gives me hives and puts me on my soapbox is the overwhelming implication that Ecolab doesn’t care about our small business at all.  The Ecolab representative claimed to care very much…he even suggested we use more chemicals per wash cycle so that we could use up our supply more quickly and feel justified in ordering more chemicals each month.  And I’m sorry, but how does placing a minimum order based on a completely subjective determination help my business succeed?  Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t…it only helps Ecolab’s bottom line.

And in a sheer fit of being so completely irritated by Ecolab’s cavalier attitude of spending $78 a month on nothing, I found myself proclaiming that we will find another commercial dishwashing company that doesn’t come with pre-set requirements.  And while I was at it, I may have claimed that when PJP achieves World Pie Domination, it won’t be Ecolab dishwashers in our commercial kitchens that will eventually cover North America and beyond.  Out of principle alone, I’m looking for a company that supports small business growth and is happy to sell me product when I need it…not when they feel I need it or out of some bizarre panic that Wal-Mart will sell me a 40 gallon jug of commercial dishwasher sanitizer on the down low.

So, Ecolab, you may not care about PJP Buttonwood now.  But some day…

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PJP + Feast TV = Forever

By the time most of you read this, Jeanne and I will have completed a 5 am – 7 am stint on KRCG’s live morning show.  Tomorrow is National Dessert Day and the fine folks at KRCG thought we might be a good addition to their morning programming to discuss…well, desserts.  The reporter, Ryann Rumbaugh, and her crew plan to arrive at PJP at 4:30 am and quite frankly, I have anxiety simply because I’m a night person and I know that no matter what happens, I’ll likely get just a few hours of sleep before my alarm goes off.  Have you ever done full hair and makeup at 3:45 in the morning?  It is weird.

So, speaking of television, you might be wondering how the Feast TV shoot on Friday went.  And we are happy to report that it went spectacularly well.  Feast’s publisher, Cat Neville, and her crew of three arrived around 2 in the afternoon and stayed until just shy of 7 that evening.

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And here is the nicest compliment I will ever pay a television crew…or maybe anyone ever:  these people were so nice and so fun, we completely forgot about trying to look at skinny as possible on camera. I completely understand how people end up on reality television because it is far easier than you would suspect to let someone film and record you for most of your day and completely forget you are the subject of interest.  Our microphones were recording for the better part of the afternoon, so we hereby apologize to the people at Feast TV that have to comb through five hours of conversation between Jeanne and I for the interesting sound bites.

We were interviewed separately and then together and then the crew also took all sorts of footage of us.  Because we were the only two members of Team PJP at PJP Buttonwood on Friday afternoon, the crew had to stop and wait while we stopped mid-sentence to wait on customers, answer the phone, or silence an oven timer.  And as gracious as the crew was to tolerate all the interruptions, each customer that rolled through the front door of PJP Buttonwood and went about their pie-shopping business like an entire working camera crew was a normal thing, well…THANK YOU.

Once the crew had everything they needed, we forced t-shirts and large amounts of pies upon them for their return ride to St. Louis.  The show is slated to run in November and we know it is going to be great, so much thanks to Feast TV, Cat, and her team.  PJP + Feast TV = Forever.

 

 

 

What To Do…

In case you worried all day about the PJP fall decor/eyelash extensions/restrictive undergarment dilemma of 2014, we have some good news.  An alert blog reader who works for Giving Gardens (http://www.cmsegivinggardens.com) offered to trade us pumpkins, mums, and gourds in exchange of pie for her hardworking staff members.   And because we are smart girls, we jumped right on that trade without a second thought.  She even went so far as to deliver our fall decor in the pouring rain to PJP Buttonwood and just like that, Giving Gardens made our storefront look AH-MAZ-ING in advance of the Feast TV shoot tomorrow.  We have beautiful mums and enormous pumpkins and it brought a warm and inviting feeling to PJP Buttonwood that will look great on camera, so THANK YOU to Frannie and her team at Giving Gardens!

Sadly, it doesn’t seem that any other of our readers deal in eyelashes or Spanx because no one showed up at our doors with offers of either in exchange for pie.  (That said, I did get some great tips for a microfiber eyelash product by Younique that looks insanely promising.)  As for the shapewear and all the rest for tomorrow, we’ve decided to just be ourselves and just see what happens.  As we will be wearing microphones for the better part of the afternoon, my goal now has been reduced to not saying any words on television that will ultimately result in an FCC fine.

But, let’s face it, all of our distraction about looking good and presenting the best possible image is really only the byproduct of wanting Feast TV and their viewers to love PJP as much as we do.  I tried to look around PJP Buttonwood today with a fresh set of eyes.  Could someone new to our story see all the love and hard work we have invested in our 1,050 square foot rectangle of space?  Does each element of our store show all the thought we’ve put into it?  When we speak, do we convey how much we believe in PJP and world pie domination?   Because those are the things that will matter tomorrow afternoon as Feast films us.  Well, that and a sparkling clean kitchen.  And making sure neither of us have butter in our hair at any point in the day.

Earlier this evening, I asked Jeanne about our plan for tomorrow.  Should we get there really early and bake everything and then be all clean and sparkly for the 2pm television crew arrival?

Jeanne’s response?  “Let’s just bake like hell.”

Sounds legit.

 

 

In Need Of Duct Tape…

For the past month or so, we’ve been in close contact with Feast Magazine, a St. Louis based food publication that now covers not only St. Louis, but Kansas City and mid-Missouri as well (http://www.feastmagazine.com).  We will be a part of their November issue and we are really excited to see it in print.  (Their photographer spent over eight hours with us.  We’ve seen a few of the proofs and they are SWOON-WORTHY.)

Well, it turns out that Feast also has Feast TV – a monthly television show that airs on PBS affiliates across the state (KMOS for mid-Missouri fans).  Yesterday, Feast asked us if we would mind if they came over next Friday to interview and film us for as the subjects for their November show.

Now look, this is a crazy busy time of year at PJP.  Fridays are always completely insane with pre-orders, pot pies, and the quest to fully stock the store with a lot of pie.  But all that said, crazy or not, TELEVISION.

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We spent most of this morning thinking about and discussing our plans to make the shop, and ourselves, look ah-maz-ing by next Friday.  First on our list… adding some pumpkins and some more fall decor to PJP Buttonwood.  We also discussed making sure we clean every square inch of stainless steel for maximum shine.  We both would like our hair professionally done and some false eyelashes glued on.  And while we are at it, we added “purchase 10 pairs of Spanx” to the list.  We may not be able to bend at the waist during the interview due to multiple layers of restrictive undergarments, but looking skinnier on television will be way worth it.

Except tonight I got another email from Feast and due to a scheduling conflict, they would like to come on over and film this Friday.

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We have an inordinate amount of pie orders tomorrow, so the odds that we buy any pumpkins, purchase eyelashes, or investigate girdle options are pretty slim.

Something tells me this isn’t how Martha Stewart got her start on her television show.  (I’m willing to bet that if Martha didn’t have time to shop for Spanx, she just stayed up all night and made some out of plastic wrap and duct tape.  She also probably grows her own pumpkins and just plucks them off her estate when she needs them.)

Feast TV will likely arrive on Friday to find us baking like mad women, wearing black t-shirts, and covered in flour…so like any basic day at PJP Buttonwood.  Don’t be jealous, Martha.